Sustainable Food Systems faculty presents curriculum

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On Monday, Nov. 6, the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement and the Honors Program hosted a dinner and discussion about Guilford’s sustainable food systems program within the environmental studies department. This included the courses Guilford offers and the professors who teach them.

Several professors spoke about their experiences with food production, the negative impacts that it can have and how production can become more sustainable.

“Food is so important,” said Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Tom Guthrie. “We all have to eat, so food is something we all have in common.

“Thinking about agriculture and food systems requires thinking about a wide range of issues, from labor to the environment to ethics to politics.”

All presenters noted the social and environmental challenges presented by food production.

Visiting Assistant Professor Zulfiya Tursunova discussed social issues that arise from food production systems, specifically the decline of small farms and the growth of the corporate farming industry.

“It’s a system based on producing conflict rather than reducing it,” Tursunova said. “It’s no longer the farmers that run the farm.When this collectivism took place, there was hunger.”

Tursunova believes that there is a way to leave collectivism behind and return to small, local farms.

“It’s important to understand how we can wage peace with Mother Earth and reclaim our power, which is taken by corporations,” said Tursunova. “We should be building relationships with food systems and know our farmers and how food is produced, therefore localizing control of the food system.”

Attendees such as sophomore Wilson Haworth learned about a different side of food at the event.

“It was interesting because food is part of our culture,” Haworth said. “And its (production is) not talked about very frequently.”

Through the SFS courses available at Guilford, students learn about food systems and how being involved in this field can lead to extracurricular and professional opportunities.

“Students can learn about the food systems from people they never would have had the opportunity to (learn from),” said Tursunova.

The SFS program will offer new classes in the spring semester, including Food and Agriculture Law and Policy, Food Justice, Cooking from the Local Foodshed and Beekeeping.

Guthrie believes that the SFS program prepares students for a career in the field.

“A major or minor in SFS could prepare students to become food producers, educators, administrators or advocates,” said Guthrie. “The SFS program provides an opportunity for integrating curricular and extracurricular activities connected to food.”

These activities include working on the Guilford College farm or studying food production practices in Thailand through the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute in Thailand, a Guilford affiliated study abroad program. Students can also participate in the Hunger Fellows and Food Justice programs offered by the Bonner Center. Participants in these programs work to solve problems related to food sustainability and access to healthy food.

“We are building on the amazing work the Bonner Center has done in Greensboro in the area of food justice,” said Guthrie. “SFS students are doing similar work.”

Tursunova believes that justice and peace are key tenants of the SFS program.

“Food systems should be about building peace,” said Tursunova. “(They should be about) how people can make peace, not just with themselves, but with others at the other end of the food system.”