School: Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Department: Food and Nutrition Policy and Programs; Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning
Event Attendance: Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group - It Takes a Region Conference
Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
This conference was extremely relevant to my career development and academic studies. In terms of career development, I am hoping to work in the field of food systems planning which using urban planning as a framework to fight food insecurity and increase access to nutritious, affordable food. I attended a breakout session entitled “Fresh food for all: local government and healthy food access” where I learned about initiatives run by and challenges faced by folks working on food access in local government. For example, I learned about the healthy corner store initiative in Jersey City, which is built upon work done by the Food Trust, a non-profit in Philadelphia. It was helpful to learn about the challenges to getting corner store owners to participate in this program, as I am working on a research team that is developing a similar model to increase food access. During this session, I was able to network with four folks who work in local government on food access whom I will follow up with.
On an academic level, I learned more about SNAP, the biggest expenditure in the Farm Bill. While SNAP is a federal program, SNAP plays a huge role in local food access. For example, we heard from a farmer who would not be in business without SNAP since he relies on customers with SNAP at the farmers markets he sells at. This session helped me realize how federal policy interacts with local policy. A theme that ran through many sessions I attended at the conference was the importance of organizing in shifting power in the food system. I am thinking about pursuing a research project on how food organizations are currently using organizing techniques and what other techniques they could use to improve their work.