The April/May Food and Nutrition Conference Circuit

by Kathleen Nay

“With nearly a dozen conferences taking place in and around Boston this month, how should I choose which one(s) to go to?”  If you’ve been asking yourself this question, you’re in luck. Kathleen Nay has the rundown of food and nutrition conferences, seminars and lecture series to check out.

Graduate school is about learning a subject deeply, engaging in research, networking and thinking about the future, whether that’s our future careers or the future of our field. An excellent way to participate in all of these endeavors is to attend conferences that offer meaningful opportunities to make connections with other professionals while observing the work and research up close. As it happens, this April and May are chock-full of conferences, seminars and lecture series about food, environment, nutrition and labor, all taking place in New England or the Northeast. Maybe you recently attended the Just Food? Forum or the Boston Food Tank Summit on April 1, and you’re raring for more. Here’s your official Conference Calendar for the rest of April and May.

 

April 3, April 26 and May 8: Harvard Lecture Series, “The Future of Food: Climate, Crops and Consequences”

Times and locations vary; Cambridge, MA

Cost: Free

Hosted by the Harvard University Center for the Environment, this lecture series will highlight interactions between agriculture and climate. On Monday, April 3, Michael K. Stern, CEO of the Climate Corporation, will give a talk entitled “Trends and Challenges in Global Agriculture: The Opportunity for Digital Ag.” On Wednesday, April 26, listen as Wrigley Fellow David Lobell speaks on “Improving Agriculture in a Warmer World.” Finally, on Monday, May 8, Lisa Ainsworth, a professor with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and USDA ARS researcher, will conclude the series with a discussion about “Understanding and Improving Crop Responses to Global Atmospheric Change.” Learn more about the Harvard University Center for the Environment and watch past recorded lectures from the series here.

 

April 5 – 7: New England Farm to Institution Summit

Leominster, MA

Cost: Registration now closed

The New England Farm to Institution Summit promises two exciting days of learning from and sharing with hundreds of farm-to-institution advocates. The Summit will focus on farm-to-school, farm-to-campus, and farm-to-health care programs. While registration for this event has already closed, it’s worth putting on your calendar for next year! You can learn more about the Summit, speakers, and host organizations (Farm to Institution New England, Health Care Without Harm, and USDA Farm to School) here.

 

April 6: Venture Capital Investment for Food

6:00 – 8:30 PM, Boston, MA

Cost: $25 General Attendance

Branchfood hosts a networking event and panel discussion that will bring venture investors across the food and food-tech industries together to discuss financing food businesses, opportunities for innovation, market trends, and how to launch a successful food startup. Panelists will include Marcia Hooper, Partner at investing firm HooperLewis, Alex Whitmore of Taza Chocolate, and Nick Mccoy, Managing Director at Whipstitch Capital. Attendees will have the chance to network with industry mentors and investors, and to stay for a food tasting. Get the evening’s schedule, registration, and parking information here.

 

April 7: Tufts Food Systems Symposium

10 AM – 2 PM, Medford, MA

Cost: Free, with registration

The first-ever Tufts Food System Symposium’s theme is “Intersections of Waste and Food Insecurity.” It will feature keynote addresses from Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s and founder of Dorchester’s Daily Table, and Sasha Purpura, executive director of Food For Free. These will be followed by a panel discussion with Boston-area advocates, students, and faculty. Attendees are invited to take place in table conversations over lunch, provided by Tufts Dining. A poster session and mini-expo will conclude the afternoon. Participants are asked to register at the Food[at]Tufts website.

 

April 7 – 8: Graduate Student Research Conference

8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Jaharis Building, Boston, MA

Cost: $15-25 Early Bird Pricing ends April 3 at 5 PM; $25-35 for day-of registration

The 10th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference presents this year’s theme, “The Future of Food and Nutrition.” Graduate students from varied disciplines will gather to present original research relating to food systems and nutrition science. Helena Bottemiller Evich, senior food and agriculture reporter at POLITICO, will give the keynote address, followed by a panel discussion including Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning professor Julian Agyeman, SR Strategy president Sylvia Rowe, and Richard Black, a 25-year veteran of the nutrition field. Participants are also invited to attend a post-conference reception for refreshments and networking. To register or read more, visit the Graduate Student Conference website.

 

April 10: Nature Research Seminar

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM, Sackler 114, Boston, MA

Cost: Free

Sir Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief for the international weekly scientific journal, Nature, will speak about management challenges for principal investigators and researchers looking to publish their work. Topics will include working with editors, post-publication pressures, lab integrity, data management, reproducibility, mentoring, best practices and more. Sir Campbell’s 50-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. Read more about the event from Tufts’ Vice Provost for Research.

 

April 21: 8th Annual WSSS Symposium

9:00 AM – 5:30 PM, Medford, MA

Cost: Free to Tufts students, faculty and staff; $10 for non-Tufts affiliated attendees

Each year, graduate students in the Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) certificate program host a Symposium about water topics. This year’s theme is “Untapped Potential: Making Water Markets Work for All” and will focus on possible public-private solutions for regional water-based issues. Attendees will hear from speakers working in public, private, and non-governmental sectors, and research-track WSSS students will present their work at the lunchtime poster session. In fact, WSSS invites all students working on water-related research to participate in the poster session. Cash prizes will be awarded! To enter, submit your abstract using this form no later than April 7. Check out the Tufts Institute of the Environment website for registration info and to see a list of speakers and schedules.

 

April 23: AllLocal Dinner at Mei Mei Restaurant

5:30 PM, Boston, MA

Cost: $55 – $65

For something a little different to break up your busy conference calendar, consider attending an AllLocal Dinner at Mei Mei Restaurant near Fenway. AllLocal events raise awareness about the benefits and challenges of seasonal cooking while promoting local agriculture and highlighting New England’s regional food system. Attendees will hear from Chef Irene Li and a local farmer, while enjoying eight family-style dishes and locally crafted libations. Mei Mei Restaurant is committed to sourcing local, pasture-raised, and humanely slaughtered meats and sustainably grown foods from family-based producers. Proceeds from the dinner will support the Boston Local Food Program. For details about the dinner and to buy tickets, visit the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts’ events page.

 

April 25: Food Hub Forum

8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Boston Public Market, Boston, MA

Cost: Free to students and seniors; $25 General Admission

For anyone interested in urban agriculture and regional distribution, the Boston Public Market’s Food Hub Forum is a must-attend event. Topics will include urban hubs, regional food systems, the history and future of Boston’s market district, economies of local restaurant and food retail businesses, and incubator services. Attendees are invited to partake in libations and networking after the event. Find full details and register here by April 22.

 

April 28 – 29: New England Meat Conference

April 28, 10:00 AM – April 29, 3:00 PM, Manchester, NH

Cost: $45 – $349 (several packages offered)

The New England Meat Conference brings farmers, processors, butchers, value-added producers and chefs together to discuss the economies, infrastructure, and potential for growth of the New England meat industry. Topics will include production, processing and pricing, whole-animal purchasing, emerging markets, inventory management, scalability, and more. Attend educational sessions, network with industry stakeholders at the trade show, and attend the Meat Ball, a competition where chefs will offer live demos. Registrants can opt to attend one or both days. Special pricing is available for students. More information at the New England Meat Conference website.

 

And if meat isn’t your thing…

 

May 20 – 21: Reducetarian Summit

May 20, 8:00 AM – May 21, 6:00 PM, Manhattan, NY

Cost: $99 Advance Student Admission; $199-399 General Admission

The central question of this first-of-its-kind event is, “How do we as individuals, organizations, communities, and societies work to systematically decrease meat consumption?” Join and share with more than three dozen high-profile food industry leaders in workshops, breakout sessions, panel discussions, and delicious meals. Topics will include the impacts of animal agriculture, using strategic communication tools to change attitudes and behaviors, the politics of meat, strategies for internalizing the external costs of factory farming, and more. For a complete list of presenters and moderators and to register, visit the Summit’s website.

Are there any conferences, seminars, or similar events missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Kathleen Nay is a second-year AFE/UEP student. You can catch her volunteering at the Food Tank Summit on April 1, in attendance at the Tufts Food Systems Symposium on April 7, and at the Food Hub Forum on April 25.

Political Dissent with Burritos

by Mike Zastoupil

While thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to protest the Trump administration, these two guys have taken to…their kitchen. Learn how Feed the People is fueling the resistance in Boston with delicious burritos.

It was a bitterly cold day to be standing outside the bandstand at the Boston Common, but that didn’t stop a few hundred people from showing up to express their support for Planned Parenthood. There were women wearing handknit pink hats and an assortment of protest signs clutched between frozen mittens and gloves. Everyone was listening to the speeches from community advocates and Massachusetts congressmen pledging their commitment to fight for women’s health clinics in the face of impending federal budget cuts.

Many people would have left the protest feeling physically and emotionally drained, had they not encountered two young men giving away burritos. “Would you like a burrito? They have black beans and sweet potatoes. They’re free. Thanks for coming out and protesting today.” An older woman took one and said “Oh, you’re serious? Thank you!” while three teenagers said, “This is amazing! You totally made my day!” and ran away munching their burritos. One man stuffed three or four into his pockets, after timidly asking if he could do so. They all walked away with warm, full bellies and a feeling that the world isn’t so bad after all.

Meet Sean Pulsfort and Gideon Burdick, the two young men behind the not-for-profit burrito operation that they call Feed the People. Their motto is “Feed the People, Fuel the Resistance,” and making burritos is their way of expressing their political dissent with the Trump administration. Like many great ideas, they came up with Feed the People late one night over a couple of beers and lively conversation. The conversation had been about ways to meaningfully engage in politics and keep people’s spirits up after what many considered a disheartening presidential election. Sean said, “We can make burritos…maybe it will make people happy.”

Sean is a trained chef and works for a food service hiring company while Gideon works for a produce distributor, so they naturally turned to food as a way to connect with their community. They made a website and Facebook page, researched the laws around giving away free food and crowdsourcing money, and quickly raised a few hundred dollars from family and friends. The burritos are all made at their apartment in Jamaica Plain, where you can find them waking up as early as 5:00 AM to make the burritos from scratch. So far they have made a breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, black beans, roasted potatoes and roasted poblano sauce, and a vegetarian burrito with beans, cheese, sweet potatoes and tomatillo sauce. They purchase all of the ingredients in bulk from a restaurant supply wholesaler, which allows them to keep costs low. Once the burritos are made, usually about 125 in total, they’re wrapped in foil and transported to the protest rallies in insulated delivery bags and coolers to keep them hot and ready to eat.

Sean and Gideon said they learned a lot from Food Not Bombs, another organization that has been giving away food to activists since the 1980’s and got its start nearby in Cambridge, MA. “We had to research laws regarding giving away free food to people,” said Sean. “There have been city ordinances in Florida and other places that have banned giving free food to people for various reasons.” The burritos they make for Feed the People are always vegetarian, which keeps costs down and reduces food safety risks, but also appeals to a wider audience.

So far, Feed the People has nourished protestors with burritos at a data rescue gathering at MIT and the Planned Parenthood Rally in the Boston Common. They plan on attending the March for Science in Boston on April 22, and any other protests and rallies that may occur in the future. When asked what their needs are to make more burritos in the future, they ask only for funding. “It costs about $1 to make each burrito,” Gideon says, and at this point they don’t really need volunteers because they can rely on friends if they need to. They intend to keep the burrito operation small and “grassroots” for now, but Gideon said he would “take a food truck” if they could afford it.

If you would like to learn more about Feed the People, you can visit their Facebook page or their website. The next time that you feel tired or frustrated with the state of politics in the country, remember that there are people out there making tasty burritos to fuel your battle.

Mike Zastoupil is finishing his Master’s in Agriculture, Food and Environment. He is a proud roommate to Sean and Gideon, and a supporter of Feed the People.  

8 Small But Worthwhile Changes You Can Make to Eat Healthier

by Katelyn Castro

Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month® with new (and a little cheesy) nutrition theme each year. This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” While this can be interpreted in many ways, here is my spin the theme, including a step-by-step guide on how healthy eating can fit into your lifestyle.

National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward! For more information about National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, visit www.eatright.org.

National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward! For more information about National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, visit http://www.eatright.org.

When January rolls around, reflecting on the past year leaves many people vowing to lose weight or eat healthier. Yet, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February, according to U.S. News. Why? More often then not, we set our weight loss goals too high or make our diets too extreme, asking our bodies to work in overdrive and making failure is inevitable. Our high expectations can leave us feeling defeated and too frustrated with ourselves to even consider a different approach.

Creating SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely— goals on the other hand, can set us up for success. By working on a behavior, like eating more mindfully, rather than focusing on an outcome, like weight loss, lofty goals can become more reasonable. Now, three months into the New Year, is the perfect time to re-evaluate resolutions and take a more practical approach to health and wellness with SMART goals.

“Put Your Best Fork Forward,” the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month® aligns perfectly with this sustainable approach to healthy eating. National Nutrition Month® 2017, recognized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is all about making small changes in our food choices—one forkful at a time—to develop lifelong, healthy eating habits.

Below is a list of eight small changes that you can make to shift towards healthier eating. Since our priorities, like our food choices, are personal and unique to each of us, I included eight suggestions so you can focus on a goal that fits into your lifestyle Make the goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely with the help of this resource, and give it a try!

1. Cook more meals from home.

When you take the time to cook your own meals, whether it’s English muffin pizzas or an elegant chicken marsala dinner, you can choose the ingredients and manage the portions. Even if you choose to add some oil, butter, or salt while cooking, most homemade meals are still lower in unhealthy fats, sodium, and calories than the restaurant or fast food version, according to research. Homemade meals also save money and time. In the time it takes to have a pizza delivered or a meal served at a restaurant, your dinner can be prepared and ready to eat—especially if you choose simple, tasty recipes like these.

SMART Goal Idea: If you eat out frequently on weekends, skip your Saturday restaurant plans and spend time with your family or friends cooking a meal from home instead.

2. Switch one of your daily grains to a whole grain.

Many of us have at least one go-to starch, whether it’s pasta, rice, or bread. Choosing the whole grain version of one of your mainstay starches is an easy way to add fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and reduce added sugars. For example, swap white bread or honey wheat bread for whole grain bread, switch white or veggie pasta to whole wheat pasta, or replace Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal with Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon cereal.

To find whole grains at the grocery store, ignore the front of the package labeling or the whole grain stamp of approval—these health claims can be deceiving! Instead, go straight to the ingredient list: the first ingredient listed should include the word “whole” followed by the name of the grain in the product. For example, if “whole wheat flour”, “whole oat flour”, or “whole rye flour” are listed as the first ingredients, then you’ve found yourself a whole grain!

SMART Goal Idea: If you add rice to your meals on a regular basis, swap out the white rice for a brown rice, or try one of these lesser-known whole grains.

3. Change the way you use fat in cooking.

Adding butter to a skillet for pancakes or pouring oil into a pan for a stir-fry can seem like second nature after a while. However, it’s easy to overdo it with these calorie-dense foods—one tablespoon of oil has about 120 calories! Using oils, like canola and olive oil, instead of butter when cooking can be a simple way to replace saturated fats with more heart-healthy unsaturated fats in meals. Also, investing in an oil mister or an oil spray like PAM can make a little oil go a long way, sparing you some calories.

SMART Goal Idea: If you like to sauté or roast foods like meats, veggies, or potatoes on a daily basis, skip the butter and layers of oil and use an oil mister. Spray the bottom of the pan before cooking, then add food and lightly spray the oil again over the top of food.

4. Aim for two to three servings of vegetables each day.

Eighty-seven percent of Americans do not meet the recommended servings of vegetables (2 1/2 cups daily), according to a national report from the Center of Disease Control. If you fall into this group, then you’re probably missing out on some essential nutrients. Vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are all important for skin, eye, heart and immune health. For some veggie inspiration, check out these flavorful vegetable-filled recipes.

If you already eat enough veggies, focus on increasing the variety of your vegetables since different colored vegetables have different vitamins and antioxidants. Aim for a combination of green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, red/orange vegetables like carrots and tomatoes, and starchy vegetables like peas and potatoes.

SMART Goal Idea: If you are a pasta lover, steam or roast some veggies while your pasta is cooking. Fill half your plate with pasta and fill the other half with a colorful array of cooked vegetables and some protein like beans, chicken, or shrimp. Broccoli and squash, tomatoes and spinach, mushrooms and cauliflower are a few tasty veggie combinations.

5. Sweeten your breakfast and snacks naturally.

Flavored yogurt, sweetened cereal, and packaged oatmeal are some of the sneakiest sources of added sugars. Even a serving of Raisin Bran cereal has 18 grams of sugar—equivalent to 4 to 5 teaspoons of white sugar! Unless you’re eating Raisin Bran for dessert, save those added sugars for times when you’re really craving sweets. Stick to the unsweetened yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal, and flavor them yourself with fruit, nuts, or seeds. Even drizzling some honey or a sprinkle of brown sugar on unsweetened oats, cereal or yogurt, will still give you less added sugar than most sweetened versions.

SMART Goal Idea: If you rely on sweetened oatmeal packets for breakfasts, replace them with plain quick oats or rolled oats. If you like your oatmeal fruity, try this recipe. For a more savory and creamy oatmeal, give this recipe a try.

6. Make water your beverage of choice.

If you’re a regular soda drinker, switching to water could be the simplest change that you can make to improve your health. Replacing soda and other sugary drinks with water doesn’t just save you calories, but it eliminates empty calories so you can make room for other calories from more nutritious food.

If you’ve already cut out soda from your diet, focus on drinking enough water. Since many metabolic pathways rely on water, dehydration can make our metabolism work less efficiently. Memory, concentration, mood, energy level, and muscle movement are also negatively impacted by dehydration, even mildly dehydration. Though eight cups of water daily is generally recommended, the best way to find out how much water your body needs is to check your urine. Yes, I’m talking about your pee—you want it to be a light, almost clear color. If it’s dark yellow, then you may not be drinking enough water throughout the day. To up your H2O intake, set a reminder on your phone to drink more water with one of these apps or try one of these drinks to give your water some more flavor.

SMART Goal Idea: Once you determine out how many cups of water your body needs, split the volume in three and aim to drink that amount every three to four hours throughout the day. For example, if you need nine cups of water, try to drink 3 cups before noon, 3 more cups in the afternoon, and 3 more cups before you go to sleep.

7. Go meatless once a week.

Since the World Health Organization identified processed meats as “carcinogenic” and red meat as “probably carcinogenic,” concern continues to grow over the potential risks of eating too much of these meats, especially processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats. While avoiding all processed meats and red meats may be unrealistic, try committing one day of the week to not eating meat. Making this small change has several health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease and lower risk of some cancers, according to research from the Meatless Monday campaign. Going meatless once a week may seem a little less daunting, when you consider everything you can add to your plate like whole grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables. For some delicious meatless meals, check out these recipes.

SMART Goal Idea: Instead of ordering a burrito with steak, cheese, and rice, fill your burrito with black beans, rice, corn salsa, and guacamole­—you’ll still get plenty of protein, with the addition of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

8. Check in with your hunger, fullness, and cravings.

Not ready to change anything about your eating habits? That’s okay too! Start by getting more curious about how, when, and why you eat. Before meals, ask yourself how hungry you are. After eating, consider how full you are: satisfied or uncomfortably full? When you have an intense food craving, ask yourself what may be triggering the craving. Are you overly hungry, stressed, or distracted? Is it emotional hunger or physical hunger? Keeping track of how certain foods make you feel and identifying what may be influencing your food choices can give you perspective for when you’re ready to make changes.

SMART Goal Idea: Pick one meal each day and spend 10 to 15 minutes tracking your hunger, fullness, and cravings before, during, and after the meal. Keep a journal, write a note in your phone, or get an App to track your intake and make you more mindful.

Katelyn Castro is a second-year student in the DI/MS Nutrition program at the Friedman School. She’s a foodie, runner, and part-time yogi on a mission to make healthy eating easy, sustainable, and enjoyable. You can find her thoughts on all things relating to food and nutrition at nutritionservedsimply.com.

 

Exiting the Echo Chamber

by Kathleen Nay

Many of us were unexpectedly blindsided by the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, but maybe we shouldn’t have been. Four Friedman students saw a need for greater diversity in our political discourse, and decided to do something about it. They piloted Let’s Talk, a four-week program designed to help fellow students engage in more respectful, tolerant, and empathetic dialogue with people of diverse political perspectives.

On November 9 of last year, I woke up reeling. I had truly not expected the results of the previous evening. In the days and weeks leading up to the election I had felt lighthearted. I was sure that someone as awful as Donald Trump couldn’t win the presidency. I felt optimistic that we’d soon have our first female president. I believed, generally, in the goodness of America.

So to wake up to a Trump presidency was, for me, devastating. I felt utterly blindsided. Looking around at the somber faces of my fellow Boston commuters that morning, I recognized that I wasn’t alone in my stupefaction.

It seems painfully, unnervingly obvious now, but at the time I wondered, how did we not see this coming? What did we miss? In the days and weeks immediately following the election, the answer surfaced in the form of two words: “echo chamber.” Apparently, these exist and we—or at least, I—live in one. Worse, it’s an echo chamber of my own making, thanks to my liberally curated social media feeds and preferred news outlets.

Shortly after Election Day I attended a presentation given by J.J. Bartlett, President of Fishing Partnership Support Services, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for the health and wellbeing of fishermen and their families. In his talk, he said something that felt like a punch to the gut: “We ignore the primal scream of blue-collar workers at our own peril.” The words cut so deeply that I wrote them down. I knew that, as a student studying agriculture policy and hoping to someday work among and advocate for farmers and ranchers—the rural working class—I could no longer afford to ignore the primal scream that elected Donald J. Trump.

Fellow Friedman students Eva Greenthal, Kelly Kundratic, Hannah Kitchel, and Laura Barley had been awakened to the same realization—and decided to do something about it. “I did not personally know a single person who voted for Trump, and I really wanted to understand their motivations,” wrote Eva, in an email to me. “Frustrated by the lack of ‘opinion diversity’ at Friedman, I knew I would have to look beyond our university to gain this insight.” So she made a plan, joined forces with Kelly, Hannah, and Laura, and applied for funding from the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement to pilot Let’s Talk, a research study designed to help students of diverse political leanings “exit the echo chamber.”

They partnered with Kelly’s alma mater, the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design. While several school names were tossed around, WVU’s Davis College was an ideal candidate because, similar to the Friedman School, they offer graduate degrees in both agriculture and human nutrition. The program would work like this: Participants at both schools would dedicate 90 minutes per week over four weeks to ‘meet’ virtually and discuss the future of food, nutrition and agriculture over the course of the new administration, with the intent to identify common goals across party lines. The organizers would administer pre- and post-surveys, to assess whether participants’ perspectives on political topics changed after hearing the perspectives, hopes, and fears of their peers. Key objectives of the program were to promote mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding, and to challenge political stereotypes. Eva connected with Ask Big Questions (ABQ), an organization that provides dialogue facilitation training, so that the team could learn to lead positive and productive conversations.

The ABQ format is simple. It’s predicated on the idea that “big questions” are those that matter to everyone, anyone can answer, and invite people to share from their own experiences. By contrast, “hard questions” are those that matter to some people and require a level of expertise to answer; they tend to close conversational spaces and lead to debates about who is right and wrong. (Political arguments are often framed by these types of questions, appealing to people’s certainties of “right” and “wrong,” “truth” and “alternative truth.”)

Big Questions vs. Hard Questions. AskBigQuestions.org

Big Questions vs. Hard Questions. AskBigQuestions.org

Using the ABQ model, the Let’s Talk team devised big questions that, while tied to political issues, they felt everyone could relate to. These included “How do we connect?,” “What do we assume?,” and “Who are we responsible for?” By design, these questions are broad and ambiguous. But Eva, Kelly, Hannah and Laura, along with the facilitators at WVU, coupled the questions with media clips—PSA videos, TED Talks, and news media addressing food-and-agriculture issues—to give them context and guide more in-depth conversation.

“I like that this format for conversation allows me to speak from my experiences to explain why I feel the way I do about difficult topics,” writes Kelly. “Too often we see others engaging in conversation that can be either very defensive or offensive, and no one leaves…feeling accomplished. When you learn to speak with your experiences, it’s easier to see others as culminations of experience, and have a better understanding of the topic and the speakers.”

Laura added that keeping communication lines open with certain family members that voted for Trump has, for her, been of utmost importance in preserving those relationships since the election. She wanted to help facilitate that for others through Let’s Talk. To ensure respectful dialogue throughout the course of the project, participants brainstormed an “Agreement of Mutual Responsibility” designed to hold one another accountable. Among the things participants were mutually responsible for were directives to use “I” statements, to speak from personal experience as often as possible, and to listen with intent to understand.

Let's Talk Project Goals and Agreement of Mutual Understanding. Photos: Kathleen Nay

Let’s Talk Project Goals and Agreement of Mutual Responsibility. Photos: Kathleen Nay

When asked why they feel Let’s Talk is an important endeavor for the Friedman School to take on, all four organizers agreed that while interdisciplinary work is a cornerstone of the Friedman agenda, there’s a level of political diversity missing from our education. “We need more interdisciplinary work that also crosses state lines and regions,” says Hannah. Laura adds that Let’s Talk “feels like a much-needed expansion of our essential coursework, and delivers us from circulating the same policy discussions that we have in class.” They hope that Let’s Talk can serve as a replicable model that other schools might use to facilitate dialogue among students of varying political persuasions.

As a Let’s Talk participant, I was eager to engage in political discourse with the students at WVU, but I frequently felt frustrated when our 90-minute sessions ended just as the conversation was getting deep. Eva acknowledges that time has been a challenge from the beginning—the time needed to adequately develop the project since the idea formed in November, the time that each organizer was able to commit to planning and preparation, and the amount of time they felt they could fairly ask participants to dedicate each week. But the fact that so many students signed up to participate, despite adding an extra 90 minutes per week to everyone’s already-busy schedules, speaks volumes: Friedman students value opportunities for cross-political dialogue.

Although I’ve been disappointed that the time constraints have capped the length and depth of our Let’s Talk sessions, I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged by the initiative of my Friedman colleagues and inspired by their clear-eyed vision for political discourse that is respectful, tolerant, and empathetic. I’m hopeful, too, that although Let’s Talk has now ended, our conversations won’t; one component of the program has been to match participants with email “pen pals” at the partner school for future correspondence.

While I was disappointed that our discussions didn’t go deeper, I feel that even after only four weeks, I am better equipped to confront my own assumptions and to listen to why, not just what, people believe. Let’s Talk introduced me to a toolbox of conversation techniques that will make me more receptive to diversified political dialogue. It’s an important first step toward shattering our personally- and artificially-crafted echo chambers. The Friedman School has work to do. And I do, too.

Kathleen Nay is an AFE/UEP student in her second year. Eva Greenthal is a first year FPAN MS/MPH student. Kelly Kundratic, Hannah Kitchel and Laura Barley are first year AFE students. Let’s Talk was funded by the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement, the Friedman School, Friedman Student Council, and three generous individual donors.

 

Agricultural Workers Should Organize

by Maddy Bennett

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a farm workers’ rights group founded by laborers on Florida’s tomato farms. The organization now operates in many states to secure fair wages and to oppose involuntary servitude in the U.S. agriculture industry. CIW succeeded in bringing large food retailers to meet the terms of the group’s Fair Food Program. The work of CIW proves that when labor organizes to reclaim its rights, society benefits. Learn more by attending Friedman Seminar on April 19.

The valorized “efficiency” of the American farming system has historically relied upon shamefully poor living and working conditions for farm laborers, who, in the post-slavery era, were often immigrants. Slavery, indentured servitude, sharecropping, and guest worker programs provided exploitative and profitable business models rooted in unjust and predatory landowner–laborer relations. Today, the mistreatment of labor in agriculture remains a national embarrassment and a poignant reminder of our country’s apparent incapacity to rectify the historical and ongoing injustices committed against these indispensible yet highly vulnerable workers.

Now more than ever, large-scale fruit and vegetable farms in the United States are heavily dependent on migrant labor coming largely from Mexico and Central America. As most of these migrants are undocumented, they live and work under especially precarious conditions and may therefore be hesitant to organize to demand better wages, humane working standards, and an end to human trafficking, sexual abuse, and gender-based violence prevalent in farm labor. Yet those who dismiss farm labor abuses allege that the current paradigm is a necessary evil—or simply an inevitability—required to meet both the scale of production and low prices demanded by consumers. Not only is this patently false, but such a facile argument serves to discredit the development of alternatives to oppressive practices in the American farming system. In fact, one such alternative has proven its success in securing workers’ rights without unduly burdening farm owners, food retailers, or consumers.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a workers’ rights and social justice organization started by farm laborers in Immokalee, Florida in 1993 in response to falling wages in the state’s tomato industry. CIW gained influence and industry recognition after organizing a hunger strike, a series of work stoppages, and fast food franchise boycotts that brought about improvements in wages and working conditions for tomato harvesters in Florida. CIW has also led the fight against endemic human trafficking and slavery taking place on American farms.

Six years ago, CIW rolled out the Fair Food Program (FFP) that educates farm workers about their rights and conducts third-party monitoring to ensure that just labor practices are being followed. FFP enlists large retailers, including Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, to sign on to be Fair Food Certified. By paying a premium, retailers help finance the enforcement of good labor standards, thus ensuring that worker dignity and human rights are upheld on tomato farms in Florida. Since 2015, FFP’s reach has expanded to farm laborers across six other states. Through its Campaign for Fair Food, CIW has educated consumers about the causes of and solutions to the rampant abuses against farm laborers. Mobilizing consumers to apply pressure to the largest food retailers has led to 14 companies joining FFP.

CIW is proof that farm worker agency, the right to organize, and cooperation among laborers, farm owners, and corporate retailers can help eradicate the scourge of unfair and inhumane labor practices and abuses in American agriculture, and that doing so need not come at the expense of consumers.

To learn more about CIW and its endeavors, please attend the Friedman Seminar on April 19—brought to you by the Friedman Justice League—during which CIW organizers will share their experiences, successes, and struggles.

Maddy Bennett is a second-year FPAN student and anti-work leftist from subtropical Texas. She enjoys vegan baking and tweeting hot takes.

Turning a Moment into a Movement

by Sam Hoeffler

Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Now what? Join the movement.

As a protester at Trump’s inauguration in D.C. on Friday January 20th, I met many people who did not identify as activists. I encountered people who had never in their lives been motivated to make signs and march in protest. It was inspiring to see so many people in the streets on Friday, and an estimated 3.3 million people across the country marched on Saturday too. Yet in the afterglow of one of the largest demonstrations in national history, we mustn’t forget our reason for protesting: the rise of nationalism and fear mongering that brought Trump to office.

Trump is poised to push our country off a metaphorical ledge, where we would fall into cronyism, oligarchy, denial of science, restraint of the press, and deeper social inequality and unrest. We the people are the only thing holding the country back from that ledge and what lies below. We the people, standing with linked arms and clasped hands, must inch the country back to solid ground. We need to rediscover and reclaim a solid ground where we can come together and fight for the rights of all Americans to live full, healthy lives.

We need to transition from this historic moment of protest to a unified movement that demands change. The moment becomes a movement when we do not simply hold our elected officials back from running the country off a ledge, but when we begin to take action and shape this country with our own hands. We must look downward, at our own feet, at our own hands, at our own communities, and get organized.

The leaders of the Women’s March on Washington are making our transition into the movement easier. They’re offering us a clear way to get engaged, calling for people to take part in 10 Actions in 100 Days. The Friedman Justice League will be facilitating each of the ten collective actions proposed by the Women’s March on Washington organizers. The first action has been published, and it is a call for postcard- and letter-writing to elected officials.

Let’s let our politicians know that we are not going back to sleep. We have been pulled to the streets, and we want to be a part of the positive change that can come after such an outpouring of activism, advocacy, hope, and protest. All Friedman community members—students, staff, and faculty—are welcome to take part in a postcard-writing event this week. FJL will provide the supplies, and even information on certain topics and addresses of elected officials.

This event is a first step in turning this moment into a movement. See you there!

WHEN: Wednesday, February 1st (11:15-12:15) and Thursday February 2nd (12:30-1:15)

WHERE: Jaharis café

WHAT: FJL will have a table with all necessary supplies for postcards and letters

CONTACT: samantha.hoeffler@tufts.edu, caitlin.joseph@tufts.edu

Volunteer at an event that is sure to inspire! Girls On The Run 5K

by Dani Bradley

Looking for a volunteer opportunity where you can be outside, be physically active, and help empower girls? Dani Bradley tells us what she loves about Girls on the Run, and how you can get involved this winter.

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Has the cold weather stifled your fitness inspiration? That’s nothing girls with pink tutus and sparkles can’t fix.

Girls on the Run (GOTR) is an amazing organization that “inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running”. GOTR empowers and educates young girls, in grades three through eight, to help them realize their full potential and provides an unmatched opportunity to develop healthy habits in our youth. The organization began in 1996 in North Carolina and now has over 225 councils across the country! During a 12-week season, girls participate in a program that integrates running and lessons about various GOTR values such as, empowerment, responsibility, and healthfulness, to name only a few. Girls can sign up with specific ‘sites’—usually the town they live in or the community program they are a part of. Any town or community center can start their own site through their local council, with their own funding or as a scholarship site, as long as there are volunteer coaches and girls that are ready to sign up!

When I first became involved with GOTR I was interested in becoming a coach, but unfortunately my job before becoming a Friedman student didn’t allow me to partake in the after-school practices. A former co-worker and I reached out to GOTR’s 5k team leader asking how we could get involved and she told us the Greater Boston council was in the midst of planning their first 5k! We quickly got involved and became the co-chairs to the volunteer committee on the 5k planning team. While my involvement is primarily behind the scenes, it is extremely gratifying to know that I play a role in the success of the program and can positively contribute to each girls’ experience! I think most Friedman students share in GOTR’s values of health and fitness and can appreciate the impact that can be made when young girls are taught healthy habits early in life.

Ready to get inspired? This December the Greater Boston council is hosting its Fall 5k at Dedham High school and you can volunteer! In my opinion, the 5k is the most exciting part of the program. Each girl and her ‘running buddy’ (usually a parent, guardian, babysitter, etc.) partake in a fun-filled day of exercise, empowerment, and excitement!

In my position as volunteer committee co-chair, I co-manage all of the event’s volunteers. Each year, over 100 inspired volunteers help us run the event.

Volunteer opportunities include (but are not limited to):

  • Course Marshals are assigned a specific location on the course where they help guide the runners in the correct direction and cheer them on.
  • Happy hair volunteers participate in the pre-race activities including helping girls with their hair (braiding, spray-painting, etc.), temporary tattoos, face painting, operating a photo booth, and other fun activities!
  • Water stops volunteers help set up the water stations along the course, hand out water to runners, and clean up the area after the girls have passed by. This is a great option if a group of people all want to volunteer together.
  • Registration volunteers help the GOTR team with runner check-in.
  • Sparkle Runners are volunteers that register to run the race. Each girl is required to run with a ‘running buddy’ for safety purposes, but each year some running buddies cannot make it last minute. Sparkle runners can stand in for missing running buddies or just run the course helping to cheer on all the girls.
  • Cheer Hub volunteers motivate the girls at the toughest parts of the course using noisemakers and signs.
  • Merchandise volunteers manage the merchandise table and sell our awesome GOTR gear.
Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Our upcoming 5k is scheduled for Sunday, December 4th at Dedham High School in Dedham, MA.

Grab your friends, classmates, roommates, coworkers, or family and register to volunteer with us!! The deadline to register is Sunday, November 27th.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me at Danielle.bradley@tufts.edu. I hope to see you there!

Learn more about Girls on the Run and Girls on the Run Greater Boston.

Dani Bradley is a MPH/FPAN dual degree student. She began at the School of Medicine in January 2016 and is currently in her first semester at the Friedman School. In her free time, she enjoys running, spending time outside, and watching The Office or Parks and Recreation.