Friedman Policy Corner: Advocate for Sound Nutrition and Agricultural Policy This Spring … and Then Run for Office!

by Alana Davidson

This spring is the end of the 2017-2018 legislative session in the Massachusetts State House. Read about what this means in terms of advocacy and learn about Friedman’s new student-run organization, the Friedman Food Policy Action Council. Finally, consider if a life in public service is right for you and whether you should run for office!

 

It’s a new year and this spring marks the end of the 2017-2018 legislative session at the Massachusetts State House. State legislators have until February 7th, 2018 to rule on all bills in committee, unless they request an extension. That means legislators decide if a bill “ought to pass”, “ought not to pass” or “study order.” Bills that ought to pass continue on through the legislative process and are considered favorable. A study order means the bill needs to be reviewed further, but most bills that are marked this and bills ruled “ought not to pass” die in committee. Then, legislators have until July 31st, 2018 to pass any bills and get them signed into law by the Governor. These next six months are a crucial time for agriculture, food, and nutrition advocates to make their voices heard. There are currently 208 bills in the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, and over 6,000 bills filed in total. Many of these bills will not proceed forward and several bills have already passed out of committee. To explore the current bills, visit: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/Search.

 

Examples of bills to follow over the next six months:

S.442 An Act Promoting Agriculture in the Commonwealth

This bill establishes two funds: an Agricultural Resolve and Security Fund and a Massachusetts Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program Fund. The second fund will be used to provide competitive grants and loans to educate, train, and retain veterans working in the agriculture sector across the state of Massachusetts.

H.4050 An Act to Promote the Care and Wellbeing of Livestock

This bill establishes a 13 member Livestock Care and Standards Board, that would include a member from the Cummings’ School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. The board would advise the Commissioner of the Department of Agricultural Resources on humane treatment of animal livestock, including cattle, swine, and poultry. Based on the recommendations the Commissioner can issue any new regulations or voluntary guidance pertaining to the treatment of livestock. This may include comfort of animals, animal health, safety, and the financial impact on farms.

H.2131 An Act Relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program

This bill establishes a Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Fund administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance and the Department of Agricultural Resources. Through this fund, for every $1 of SNAP spent on fruits and vegetables a person will receive a matching dollar benefit redeemed on their SNAP EBT card.

 

With the current political climate, it is now more important than ever to make your voice heard. What are some ways you can do that this spring? Join Friedman’s new student run organization, the Friedman Food Policy Action Council (FFPAC). This organization is seeking to unite Friedman students interested in policy, advocacy, and research to develop skills in lobbying by investigating current legislative issues at the state and federal level, and advocating in support of sound nutrition and agricultural policies. The group will be meeting bimonthly on Mondays at noon and our first official meeting is February 5th, 2018. If you decide to join FFPAC, you will gain experience writing and publishing op-eds, calling and meeting with legislatures, and working with other advocacy organization across Massachusetts and the country. FFPAC will also be hosting bimonthly Policy Chats in partnership with Professor Jerry Mande this spring to discuss current food and nutrition policy issues. The next policy chats will be February 7th and February 21st 2018.

The only way we are going to make evidence-based nutrition and agricultural policies top priorities at the national and state levels is by having conversations with elected officials and by running for office ourselves. If this past year has inspired you or the recent marches have prompted you to think about your future, consider going into public service. If statements from our elected leaders that it’s time to end the SNAP program angers you, go knock on doors and make calls for candidates who will support these programs. If you are tired of hearing about “fake news” and “alternative facts,” speak out in support of science. As students at a policy-focused school, we gain the skills and knowledge to read and analyze policies. We each must ask ourselves, “If I was an elected official, what proposals would I put forward? What change would I want to see?” We are at a pivotal moment in our country’s history. At the federal level, we have welfare reform and the Farm Bill to look forward to within the next year, while at the same time school meal regulations are being rolled back by the USDA and the Secretary of Agriculture says the SNAP program needs more “state flexibility.” We have to decide what kind of world we want to live in: one in which the government helps provide food to those who cannot afford it, or one that leaves it to charity? One in which consolidated large corporations control the entire food system, from what seeds are planted to what products get the best placement on supermarkets shelves? We as agriculture, food, and nutrition policy students have a unique training that can enable us to be effective change makers in food systems and food justice work.

So to my colleagues, consider this your first ask to run for office! No matter if you start small by joining FFPAC or calling an elected official, or go large by volunteering on a campaign or running for office, there are numerous ways you can make a difference this year. So let’s roll up our sleeves, get to work, and make our voices heard.

 

Alana Davidson is a first year MS candidate in the Food Policy and Applied Nutrition program and one of the founding members of FFPAC. For the last three years she has interned in the anti-hunger field at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Share Our Strength, and End Hunger Connecticut!. Her research and advocacy have centered on domestic food insecurity and nutrition-related issues.

 

 

 

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The Friedman Justice League’s Response to the Strategic Plan Launch

by The Friedman Justice League

The Friedman Justice League (FJL) assesses how the recent unveiling of the Friedman School’s Strategic Plan aligns with its own goals and vision for the future, and offers input on how the plan can be effectively implemented. FJL’s internal goals are also expressed, and all Friedman students are welcomed to engage with these efforts, as they please!

Introduction

People of color and low-income people are more likely to experience the injustices perpetrated on both the production and consumption ends of the food system. Having broad racial and class representation in the Friedman School is key to producing alumni who can effectively navigate these issues throughout their careers. Therefore, Friedman Justice League (FJL) student group is eager to promote more diversified representation in our school community.

Last fall, FJL members gathered to conduct a visioning process, through which the group agreed on clear goals for engaging in the school’s Strategic Planning process. Our members served on several working groups and collaborated with other students, staff, and faculty to foster active engagement throughout the School. This planning process and our engagement with the administration over the past many years have led to numerous promising outcomes, including positive relationships with supportive members of the administration and increased opportunities to engage with faculty about curriculum improvements. Two FJL members sit on the Friedman School Diversity Task Force, and FJL members also helped plan the recent diversity and inclusion training at the Boston Health Science campus.

During the Strategic Plan Launch on November 15, we heard from President Monaco, Provost Harris, and Dean Mozaffarian about the Friedman School’s plan for advancing its mission “from cell to society.” Many of our members were present to listen, take notes, and pose questions. As a student organization committed to improving our School’s ability to address issues of discrimination and oppression within the food system, we paid particularly close attention to the  Strategic Plan goals that coincide with our own:

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-4-26-45-pm

Recognition

We acknowledge that the Strategic Plan includes many goals that align and overlap with some of our personal and group values, and are particularly supportive of Goals II, V, X, and XI, which we advocated for within the working groups. FJL specifically encourages the Friedman School to infuse these values in all of its goals by raising consciousness about justice and equity through its curricula and public impact actions. Dean Mozaffarian emphasized the role students played during the planning process in driving social justice priorities to the surface, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the plan. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Strategic Plan, as we monitor and support the implementation of these goals.

Furthermore, we are optimistic about the progress that is currently being made within Friedman’s Diversity Task Force, which has been working to establish a formal School structure to actualize the Strategic Plan goals related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The Task Force is comprised of the Academic Dean of Education, the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs*, the Associate Director of Admissions, one faculty member, one staff member, and two current FJL members.  The Diversity Task Force has already begun to generate innovative approaches for more targeted recruitment of students with diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the Task Force to recruit, support, and retain future leaders from historically oppressed groups in our society.

Promising Progress, Poised for Action

In the Strategic Plan’s introductory video, the Dean states: “We will also emphasize and integrate principles of social justice, inclusion, and diversity into every facet of what we do.” We applaud the incorporation of this broad commitment. However, the discussion during the launch focused primarily on advancing this commitment through increased integration of diversity and justice issues into the curriculum.

We are also interested in hearing more about the School’s specific plans to address the lack of diversity in the composition of our school, and we hope to see increased representation of communities of color and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in the future. Dean Mozaffarian mentioned the importance of Friedman alumni to the advancement of our School’s values. Like our current students, our School’s alumni are primarily white. World-class leadership from our students and alumni will require that our student body and faculty be composed of people whose lived experiences provide a complex understanding of the successes and challenges of our food system. The Dean’s continued discussion of diversity both in promotional materials and during the launch is promising, and we hope that the School’s commitment to this goal becomes clearer in the near future.

Opportunities for Improvement

The translation of these goals and objectives into measurable improvement is the next step in ensuring a more diverse and well-equipped student body, network of alumni, and faculty. It is important that the School’s efforts to advance diversity and inclusion be rooted in humility. To effect real change, the School must fully and genuinely recognize its starting point in its goal of “expand[ing] and diversify[ing] our student body to train future leaders in nutrition science, policy, and practice” (Goal X). In this vein, it is important that the School accurately present the racial and ethnic demographic data of its current student body, which will serve as an accurate baseline for monitoring future progress. We did not feel that such a presentation was provided during the launch. For example, the graduation photo on Friedman by the Numbers (Page 16 of the Strategic Plan), is suggestive of greater demographic diversity than the current composition of the School. Data on the School’s racial and ethnic makeup exist but were not provided as part of Friedman by the Numbers. These data are presented on the Tufts University Diversity Dashboard, and the numbers paint a very different picture than the image chosen for the Strategic Plan’s promotion. Given that these data are available, we are disappointed that they were not presented alongside the other relevant data about our school’s current composition. It is critically important that the School take an honest accounting of its starting composition and avoid celebrating a diverse makeup that is not yet a reality.

Responsibility & Transparency

All members of the Friedman community share responsibility in the creation of a just and inclusive learning and working environment at the School, and we recognize that this is an important and dynamic moment in the School’s history. With regard to the diversity and inclusion-related goals in the plan, we see both great potential for our school to become a social justice leader, and we also recognize the great challenges that lie ahead.

Given the complexity of addressing systems of oppression through institutional action, we would like to know how the administration plans to delegate responsibility for the implementation of these goals, and are curious about how it will engage the Friedman community in the process of setting qualitative and quantitative metrics for advancing the aims of the Strategic Plan. We recognize that this work is difficult. Significant gains will require the focused and sustained engagement of skillful individuals working within the School’s own system. As such, we advocate for the hiring of at least one dedicated professional capable of advancing the diversity and inclusion-related goals. Schools on the Boston Health Sciences Campus have similar models, in which a designated administrator is focused on such issues. Dr. Joyce Sackey, for example, is the Dean of Multicultural Affairs at the School of Medicine.

We also support the creation of more streamlined, accessible, and transparent communication networks between the administration and the broader student body during the implementation process. One example that the School could emulate comes from our neighbor, Northeastern University (NEU). NEU recently demonstrated both humility and transparency while engaging their community broadly during the University’s recent diversity and inclusion action planning process. We think Friedman would benefit from creating a similar forum for students, staff, and faculty to discuss the process of operationalizing the Strategic Plan’s goals moving forward. Countless other examples of innovative anti-racism actions by higher education institutions exist, and we look forward to seeing which method Friedman adopts as we work to help the School advance its goals.

FJL’s 2016-17 Vision

In October, the Friedman Justice League (FJL) conducted its own visioning process to set priorities for the year. Members shared their personal visions for justice in the world as well as their ideas on the role of the Friedman School and FJL in realizing these visions. The discussion was distilled into three key outcomes:

  1. A plan for internal and external priorities that includes a focus on labor in the food system, examined through educational activities, advocacy campaigns, and curriculum enhancement;
  1. A commitment to engagement with the student body in a more inclusive manner, in an effort to develop broader coalitions around our goal of integrating social justice into all spheres at Friedman; and
  1. A strategic framework for FJL’s programming and activism expressed by the diagram below:
fjlConclusion

In alignment with our own visioning process, FJL remains committed to working with the administration to build on the momentum and traction we have generated together toward social justice and diversity. We remain steadfast in our determination to hold school decision-makers accountable for the goals set forth in the plan. The School’s renewed commitment to innovation, public impact, and social justice are now more important in light of the current political climate, and Friedman is well positioned to make a significant impact within our community and beyond. Now is the time to transform these words into actions, and FJL stands at the ready to support the School in ensuring that its laudable goals around diversity, inclusion, and social justice become its practice.

*Correction, December 6, 2016: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the title of one of the Diversity Task Force members. Matthew Hast used to be the Associate Director of Student Affairs, but is now the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs. The article above has been corrected for this error. – Editors

The Friedman Justice League seeks to make our community more diverse and find ways to allow the Friedman community to better address issues of discrimination and oppression in its teachings, research, and programs. To get involved with our discussions, events, and campaigns learn more here or email caitlin.joseph@tufts.edu to be added to the listserv.

 

Fall Semester at the Friedman Student Council

by Michelle Borges with David Grist

Hello from your Friedman Student Council! Despite our best efforts to communicate through all available channels, we often hear from students that they don’t know what student council does. Naturally, The Sprout seemed like an ideal place to post a summary of our activities so far this year.

The Friedman Student Council has had a busy semester planning events, fundraisers and facilitating communication between students, faculty and alumni. This semester, council is composed of 13 students and led by David Grist and Kristine Caiafa.

A large fraction of council funds support student group-led events each year. This fall, the council allocated nearly $1,800 to support farm tours, skill shares, documentary screenings and other scholarly activities. The council also plans social events that aim to bring greater cohesion to the Friedman community.

Social chairs Ally Gallop and Julia Kelly developed this semester’s eventful social calendar, including a brewery tour, coffee breaks, a karaoke party, a happy hour and more. Ally and Julia are also leading a project to create a cookbook comprised of recipes submitted by Friedman students – think a Friedman-style yearbook.

As the Friedman Alumni Association Representatives, Buki Owoputi, Corey O’Hara and Alex Simas collaborate with the Friedman Alumni Association to coordinate events and help voice student interests. This semester they helped coordinate a career panel for students and the upcoming toast to finals on December 4.

Serving as first-year representatives, Shinjia Shi and Ben Chipkin work on integrating first-year students into the Friedman community. Among the plans they currently have in the works is a bowling outing for first- and second-year students at Flatbread Pizza Company in Davis. They are also coordintating with other first year students to plana student ski trip to take place early in the spring semester.

12291273_10156084793640478_4211824103657531542_oTreasurer Matt Allan tracks student council funds and organizes fundraising events like the Fall Fundraiser currently underway. Perhaps you’ve seen the table in the Jaharis Atrium where Student Council members are selling Friedman aprons, chocolate, coffee, and other sundry equal exchange goods. These make great holiday gifts and the proceeds go directly back into supporting student led initiatives. Since Matt has a graphic design background, he also developed the Friedman t-shirt currently for sale at TeeSpring.

As Curriculum and Development representatives, Katherine Pett and Reem Al Sukait meet with faculty monthly to discuss and represent the student body’s opinion on plans for current and future Friedman curriculum.

The council strives to support student feedback in a variety of ways. This semester Caroline Nathan and Ashish Pokharel hosted “Friedman Feedback,” a focus group-style session that sought feedback on a range of topics. Additionally, the council welcomes any student to attend council meetings, email us at friedmanstudentcouncil@tufts.edu, add our Trunk page to view meeting minutes or submit comments via the online comment box or the physical comment box in the Jaharis café.

That is a quick wrap-up of what the Friedman Student Council has been up to this semester. We look forward to continuing our efforts in the spring!

Michelle Borges is the secretary for the Friedman Student Council.

David Grist is co-chair of the Friedman Student Council.

Visions for a Just and Equitable Nutrition School

by The Friedman Justice League

This is an exciting time in the history of the Friedman School. Dean Mozaffarian has undertaken a school-wide strategic planning process, open to all levels of the school body. Albeit executed under a tight time frame, staff, faculty, and students are being given the unique opportunity to consider in-depth what makes Friedman great and how we can continue to make it even better.

Stirred by our school’s time of reflection and planning, the Friedman Justice League (FJL) has crafted a vision for justice at the Friedman School. As detailed in our mission statement, we are a student organization that seeks to make our community more diverse and inclusive, and to find ways for the Friedman community to better address issues of discrimination and oppression in its teachings, research, and programs. We convened in November to build a shared vision of a nutrition school that embodies these principles.

Discrimination and oppression are at the root of many food system challenges, domestically and globally. The Friedman School must understand these vital issues and provide leadership as they pertain to nutrition and food systems. Methodical action will help Friedman progress as an institution at the cutting edge of research and in the training of future leaders. To this aim, justice, equity, diversity, and cultural appreciation should be central to the school’s strategic planning process. In addition, long-term growth will require personal reflection, open dialogue, sustained action, and inclusive community building. We are pleased to present the results of our conversation and look forward to working together with the entire Friedman community to advance this vision.

Investment in and commitment to justice. Real change requires investment and commitment from all levels of leadership. Progress will rely on transparent and open dialogue that encourages all voices to be heard. Financial investment will also be integral to support these goals, including prioritizing equity and diversity education and training, accessing resources for effective diverse recruitment, and building community partnerships.

Cultural humility and openness. We seek more welcoming social spaces to promote dialogue and community. Recent events at the University of Missouri, Harvard University, Yale University, and others illustrate that racism is still present in higher education. We implore our own institution to take an active role in being anti-racist, starting with the humble acknowledgement that there is still work to be done. To build an open and inclusive environment within the Friedman campus, all students, faculty, and administrators must be trained in cultural competency, cultural humility, and social equity. Proper training will position us as better practitioners and representatives of the field of nutrition in our current and future work.

A diverse student body, faculty, and administration. Our working definition of diversity encompasses race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability, gender, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs, and country of origin. To continue being a leader in our field, the Friedman School must be representative of the society we are a part of and work within, both domestically and globally. Institutions across the country are making bold promises around diversity and inclusion, serving as appropriate models from which to learn. For example, Brown University made the commitment to double its proportion of underrepresented minority faculty by 2025 through creation of a new postdoctoral fellowship program and a new young scholars program. It is our expectation that the Friedman School will make a similar commitment to the diversification of our student body, faculty, and administration.

Build justice into our curriculum. We see a gap in the course offerings that are centered on social justice frameworks and diverse cultural perspectives. The FJL diversity sub-committee is working with faculty to enhance teachings on justice in the classroom. We applaud those professors who already address these topics in their courses. We also recognize that this is an ongoing process, through which we hope to see more diverse guest lecturers, additional teaching modules to syllabi on key justice topics, and the inclusion of culture and diversity-related examples or readings to coursework. Changes can take many shapes and forms, but may include:

  • More nuanced race and class analyses
  • Emphasis on food justice and environmental justice
  • Stronger focus on human rights at all levels of the food system
  • More coverage of animal rights and cruelty
  • Emphasis on cultural influences of food and nutrition
  • Greater understanding and acknowledgement of structural racism in the U.S. food system

External partnerships that are diverse, inclusive, and community-oriented. As students and future professionals, we seek more exposure to community-based participatory research methods and projects that involve community interaction. Increased local partnerships would allow us to leverage our institutional strength and work with communities our school directly affects, such as Boston’s Chinatown. For example, Jumbo’s Kitchen partners with the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, Inc. to educate students at Josiah Quincy Elementary School about basic cooking, nutrition, and health. We look forward to more opportunities to learn from individuals and communities directly so that we may apply our classroom knowledge.

Additional external partnerships could assist with the recruitment of a more diverse student body, staff, and faculty. For example, establishing formal and informal collaborations with state-based undergraduate institutions and strengthening relationships with colleges and universities serving underrepresented minority groups (e.g., Historically Black Colleges and Universities) would assist with these efforts. Fostering relationships with local graduate schools that have well-established enrichment programs with Boston’s middle and high schools (e.g., Harvard School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion) would also be a worthwhile strategy to include underrepresented students in allied health professions such as those within the nutrition field.

FJL is thrilled that the Friedman School is undertaking a school-wide strategic planning process, and several of our members are currently serving on Investigative Working Groups (IWGs) to support this process. We hope that our working vision for justice at Friedman can supplement the school-wide process that continues to make Friedman great. FJL shares many similar goals with the IWGs, such as building upon our external partnerships, improving work-life balance and diversity, increasing the public impact of research from cell to society, improving the educational experience of students, and ultimately creating a cultural shift and transformational change within the Friedman community. We believe FJL adds value to the conversation by ensuring that a justice framework and issues of diversity and inclusion are considered fully. The Friedman School’s progress and continued public impact on nutrition and food in our increasingly diverse nation and globalized world depends on it.

Signed,

Sarah Andrus, MS, FPAN 2016

Madeline Bennett, MS, FPAN 2017

Stacy Blondin, PhD, FPAN 2016

Rebecca Boehm, PhD, AFE 2016

Alison Brown, PhD, FPAN 2017

Sarah Chang, MS/MPH, AFE 2016

Rebecca Harnik, MS, AFE 2016

Sam Hoeffler, MS, AFE 2017

Mehreen Ismail, PhD, FPAN

Caitlin Joseph, MS, AFE 2017

Micaela Karlsen, PhD, NEPI 2017

Kathleen Nay, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2018

Megan Lehnerd, PhD, AFE

Caitlin Matthews, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2017

Danielle Ngo, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2017

Nathaniel Rosenblum MS/MALD, AFE 2016

Rebecca Rottapel, MS/MPH, AFE 2016

John VanderHeide, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2018

The Friedman Justice League encourages this conversation to continue among the broader Friedman community. We are compiling signatures for this vision, which will be used to contribute to the Friedman School’s strategic planning process. Please add your name if you believe this vision adequately reflects your views and would like to share your support, by December 11: http://tinyurl.com/fjlvisions2015.