Food Justice at Friedman: from a group to a league By Lainey Younkin, RD

The student groups at Friedman are constantly evolving. Each semester brings new leadership, exciting events, and unique opportunities to get involved. Every month the Sprout will have a Student Group Spotlight to feature one student group at Friedman.  This month’s focus is the Friedman Justice League, formerly known as the Justice, Equity & Food at Friedman (JEFF) group. I spoke with Trisha Chakrabarti and Lauren Kaskey, co-leaders of the group, to get the scoop on why they changed their name and what their hopes are for this year. 

What’s the goal or mission of the Justice, Equity & Food at Friedman (JEFF) group?

 We’ve actually recently changed our name to Friedman Justice League. JEFF felt like a weird acronym for the group, and people were having trouble remembering what the words stood for. We didn’t feel like the name still fit, and one of the original co-founders suggested a change. Friedman Justice League has a great ring to it and conveys the energy we feel around justice in the food system and at Friedman. JEFF started as a response to the lack of diversity in symposium speakers, students, and faculty at Friedman, and the Friedman Justice League is still working to create systemic change to support a more diverse community. The Friedman Justice League’s mission is to provide opportunities to expose members of the Friedman community to issues of race, class, and justice within the food system.

What kind of events do you do at Friedman?

We’ve partnered with local organizations to tour Chinatown and have another project in the works that will connect with the surrounding community. We volunteer at local farms like the one owned by Friends of Boston Homeless, host book launches, and work to increase the volunteer activities at the school. We also meet bi-weekly to discuss systemic issues at Friedman and how we, as a student group, can advocate for change. In fact, this semester’s Chinatown tour was held recently, and it was a great chance for Friedman students to connect with one of the oldest community organizations in Chinatown, the Chinese Progressive Associations. Last semester, we also co-sponsored a speaking engagement with Eric Holt-Gimenez of Food First, along with local environmental justice advocates, and our very own Will Masters!

What are your goals for this school year?

One of our primary goals for the year is to develop a curriculum for a Food Justice course. We have been working with an Urban Environmental Policy Planning (UEP) student to create this interdepartmental course, as the UEP program is considering making a hire in the field. There was a successful directed study last year, which is growing into a larger project. This is an important element of the food system that isn’t currently represented in our curriculum.

We are also hoping to increase interaction with our surrounding neighborhood, Chinatown. Historically an immigrant neighborhood, some of the grittier parts of Chinatown actually stem from systemic challenges faced by under-served communities. We talk about these communities so much in our classes, often without recognition of what is going on outside of these doors. For example, did you know that the trash in Chinatown is collected far less than the trash in other parts of the city? By increasing Friedman’s community engagement, we’re hoping to create long-lasting relationships between students and our neighbors, working together to create and maintain a safe, healthy, and friendly neighborhood and make sure that our neighbors feel like Friedman is a community asset.

How can people get involved in the FJL?

Email friedman-justice-league@googlegroups.com to join our list. You can also email trisha.chakrabarti@tufts.edu or lauren.kaskey@tufts.edu to find out when our next meeting is! We’ve been thinking about t-shirts; so if you see one lurking around, don’t be afraid to stop that person to find out more.

Anything else you want Friedman students to know about the FJL?

Friedman is a great school with students who come from diverse backgrounds with different experiences. However, we recognize that we are also in a unique position as graduate students – it’s a choice that is out of reach for many people in the country and the world. The Friedman Justice League is trying to change not only the small world we inhabit as students on a daily basis, but also the face of graduate food policy education. We know it won’t be easy and it’s a constantly evolving topic, so new minds and ideas are absolutely integral to keeping our mission alive!

*This interview was edited and condensed.

Lainey Younkin, RD is a second-year Nutrition Communication student. She hopes to help people have a positive relationship with food and fitness. She’ll be finding out when the next FJL event is so she can get one of those t-shirts!

 

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