As a TIE Environmental Fellow, Cassandra will conduct a comparative analysis of three statewide public school local food incentive programs. These independent government policies are all nascent, ground-breaking initiatives that provide direct monetary incentives to School Food Authorities (SFAs) that participate in the National School Lunch Program. While they present similar policy goals of encouraging SFAs to buy more local ingredients, the approaches of each program and its respective evaluation vary considerably. Each program will be compared to its contemporaries and the influence of nuanced aspects of each policy’s design (the amount of incentive, type of product, lunch vs. breakfast, etc.) on outcomes in SFA will be examined. Above the original description and analysis, Cassandra will evaluate each policy’s relationship to health, economic development, financial responsibility, equity, and sustainability. This research will advance the local food systems field by providing evidence-based insight for policymakers who are looking to implement similar programs.
Cassandra is a graduate student at the School of Arts and Sciences, in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, pursuing a Masters of Science in Environmental Policy and Planning. Cassandra expects to complete her studies in May 2022. After receiving her undergraduate degrees in art and agricultural technology, Cassandra served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, building the capacity of Allegany County’s school and community gardens and developing garden-based curricula for teachers. During her service year, she started investigating other market channels, specifically Farm to Institution models, that would create consistent sales opportunities for small farms. In 2017, Cassandra's grant proposal to coordinate a county-wide Farm to School program through Cornell Cooperative Extension Allegany County was funded. She later directed this program and assisted districts to purchase 30% of their school lunch ingredients from local sources. Since 2017, she has written and executed more than thirty successful grant proposals and supported eight school gardens, three community gardens, a commercial teaching kitchen, cooking demonstrations, farm to school programs, and more. She is most proud to be an integral part of a project called The Fassett GreenSpace. For the past three years, the project has transformed a vacant lot in Wellsville, NY, into an interdisciplinary 1,500 sq. ft. public garden and outdoor classroom.
At Tufts, Cassandra participates in the Hoch Cunningham Environmental Lecture Series as well as the Cities@Tufts Colloquium lectures.
Current Studies and Future Goals
When asked what she found most meaningful about her field of study, Cassandra responded with the following: "I came to this field because I was frustrated with how our government is not adequately addressing environmental destruction and climate change-related impacts that scientists have been researching for decades. The most meaningful thing about environmental policy and planning is that it helps contextualize environmental science and society. The field helps ensure that all people have access to a healthy environment, and that our governments adopt policies that promote sustainable economic development, environmental stewardship, and social equity to create a better world for the future."
When asked what interested her in becoming a TIE Fellow, Cassandra responded with the following: "I came to the Tufts UEP program because it encourages interdisciplinary research. The faculty and staff all understand that the problems facing the world today cannot be solved in silos. UEP’s motto is “practical visionaries,” meaning that they want our work to be grounded within a community or a tangible frame. All of these sentiments were echoed in the TIE Fellowship program. I have always been interested in the conversation between seemingly disparate fields, and was thrilled to find that TIE supports interdisciplinary environmental work among graduate students.".
Cassandra hopes to continue community based research from a high level perspective, and perhaps pursue her doctorate after she completes her masters.
When not doing school work, Cassandra can be found working on new skills, like spinning wool and masonry.
Favorite Movie: Rushmore
Favorite Place You've Visited: Big Sur
Favorite Course Taken at Tufts: Climate Change Policy & Planning