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“Just Good Food” is the topic of URI’s Fall Honors Colloquium – URI News

KINGSTON, RI – August 22, 2022 – The mere mention of the word food can conjure up different images for Americans: a big family dinner; a low-key evening at home with pizza; children and families around the world facing starvation; the behemoths of agribusiness; and growing interest and participation in local and sustainable agriculture and food production.

Despite these differing perceptions and experiences, researchers at the University of Rhode Island and elsewhere say we all share one thing: We are increasingly disconnected from the food system, except as consumers. The University of Rhode Island Fall 2022 Honorary Colloquium Coordinators, “Just Good Food: Creating equitable, sustainable and resilient food systems,” hope to change this lack of understanding and awareness. Additional details and information on other events can be found at

Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist, economist and author, begins the series on September 13

The University’s first series of free public lectures will bring 10 experts to the Kingston campus to examine many aspects of local and global food systems on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. at Edwards Hall. The series begins on September 13 and ends on December 13. The symposium will also be available online. In addition to the lectures, the Art Department will present an exhibit related to the colloquium themes entitled “Some Food We Could Not Eat”, featuring the works of Kamari Carter, Jennie Maydew and Zoe Scruggs and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council will present organize a photo contest that will be used to illustrate the different elements of the Rhode Island food system.

Symposium coordinators John Taylor, professor of plant science and specialist in agrobiology, and Marta Gomez-Chiarri, professor of fisheries and specialist in aquaculture, state in their proposal for the symposium that in 1900, 40% of the American population lived in farms, and 41% of the population was engaged in agricultural production. Today, about 80% of Americans live in cities and less than 2% of the working population works in agriculture.

Citing a 2017 survey of Americans over the age of 18, 48% of respondents said they rarely or never seek information about where or how their food is grown or produced.

“There’s great interest in Rhode Island in terms of increasing food sovereignty, so in other words relocating the food system,” Taylor said. “It ties into the regional initiative, 50 by 60, whose goal is to produce 50% of the food in New England by 2060. Along with that comes our desire to make this relocated production more sustainable. and also more equitable in terms of people’s access to food.

The initiative, “50 X 60: A New England Food Vision,” is a report published by Food Solutions New England, a regional network coordinated by the University of New Hampshire.

“We have involved many people in the development of this symposium, and URI also has a new interdisciplinary program on sustainable agriculture and food systems,” Gomez-Chiarri said. “We are trying to draw attention to this program and its objectives.”

“We work with URI Dining Services and its director, Pierre St-Germain, because we feed our students, but they don’t know where their food comes from,” she added. “There are also food safety issues among students. So we are trying to increase our local food production from local farms, including those at URI. Most people don’t know about URI farms.

“It’s all part of the larger food system problem, and it’s been really underscored by the pandemic (COVID-19), in which we’ve seen breakdowns in global supply chains,” Taylor said. “For the first time in my life, I saw empty shelves in grocery stores.”

Taylor and Gomez-Chiarri said there is great enthusiasm across all disciplines at URI and among people interested in sustainable local food production.

The course of the symposium is structured around three main themes,

  • The lay of the land; Global challenges and theoretical frameworks
  • Food System Realities: The Way We Eat Now
  • New imaginaries: towards sustainable, resilient and just food systems

“We will cover the entire food system, including production, processing, distribution, consumption, waste management and recovery,” Taylor said.

“Restaurants are a big part of that, and so we have two chefs coming in to speak, and one of them, Sean Sherman, is the founder and director of an organization called Sioux Chef (speaking Oct. 4),” said Gomez-Chiarri. “Our launch speaker, Winona LaDuke, is also a Native American expert on pre-colonial food and food sovereignty among native tribes.”

She also noted that Dawn Spears, representing the Narragansett Tribe, played an important role in organizing the lecture series.

LaDuke, a Native American activist, economist, and author, begins the series Sept. 13 with her talk, “Restoring Indigenous Foodways in a Time of Climate Change – Lessons for the 8th Fire.” LaDuke’s presentation is “The Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Women’s Studies Lecture.”

LaDuke combines economic and environmental approaches in his efforts to create a thriving and sustainable community for his own White Earth Reservation and Indigenous peoples across the country. LaDuke is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg. LaDuke graduated from Harvard University in 1982 with a degree in rural economic development.

Today, the mother of six adult children (three biological and three adopted) devotes much of her time to farming. Located on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, his farm grows heirloom vegetables and hemp. LaDuke tries to spread awareness of the environmental benefits of hemp: it requires less water to grow than cotton; can replace petroleum-based synthetic materials in clothing and other products; and absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, rather than releasing it. LaDuke’s Hemp & Heritage Farm is his latest venture; a non-profit farm and agency, its mission is to create an Indigenous women-led economy based on local food, energy and fiber that is kind to the Earth.

The art exhibit, “Some Food We Could Not Eat,” featuring the works of Kamari Carter, Jennie Maydew and Zoe Scruggs will run from October 15 to December 13, with an opening reception on October 15 from 3 p.m. 6 p.m., location to be determined. The curator of the exhibition is Rebecca Levitan, director of the main gallery and assistant professor.

Other topics, speakers and dates are:

  • September 27, Vanessa Garcia Polanco, “The Exception, Not the Norm: Becoming an Advocate for Agriculture and Food Justice.” Garcia Polanco is a URI alumnus, an experienced leader, researcher, speaker, writer and organizer, who works with food, agriculture and climate actors to create and strengthen communities with policies and pleas. She is a member of the Young Farmers Coalition.
  • October 4, Chief Sean Sherman, “The (r)evolution of North American Indigenous Food Systems”. He is founder and CEO of Sioux Chef, Oglala Lakota, and co-founder of North American Traditional Food Systems. He has been cooking in the United States and around the world for 30 years. He has focused on revitalizing and raising awareness of Indigenous food systems within a modern culinary context.
  • October 11, Ashanté M. Reese, “Black Food, Black Liberation: Thinking, Writing, and Living Beyond Black.” Reese is an assistant professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She works in the area of ​​black food culture, social justice and community resilience
  • October 18: Diana Garvin, “Kitchen Rebellion: Food under Italian Facism and Everyday Resistance”. Garvin is a food historian and assistant professor of Italian at the University of Oregon, commenting on food politics. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Punch and Flavor. She is also the author of Feeding Facism: The Politics of Women’s Food Work.
  • October 25, Saru Jayaraman, “Work and the food system”. Jayaraman is co-founder and president of One Fair Wage and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The conference is co-sponsored by the URI John Hazen White Sr. Center for Ethics and Public Service.
  • November 15, Denzel Mitchell, “Urban Agriculture: Community Organization and Family: The Journey of a Black Leader.” MItchell is co-founder and co-executive director of education and operations for the Farm Alliance of Baltimore. The conference is co-sponsored by the URI Africana Studies program.
  • November 29, Tom Philpott, “Perilous Bounty: Emerging Crises in Industrial Agriculture.” Philpott is the food and agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones Magazine and author of Perilous Bounty: America’s impending collapse
    Agriculture and how we can prevent it.
    The conference is co-sponsored by the Harrington School of Communication and Media.
  • December 6, Leah Penniman, “Uprooting Racism and Seeding Sovereignty in the Food System.” Penniman is a Black Kreyol farmer, author, mother and food justice activist. Penniman is Co-Director and Farm Manager of Soul Fire Farm, Grafton, New York. This event is online only.
  • December 13, Ricardo Salvador, “The 21st Century Food System We Deserve.” He is Director of the Food and Environment Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He will discuss working with citizens, scientists, economists and politicians to move the food system towards one that grows and produces healthy food while employing sustainable and equitable practices. The event is co-sponsored by the Rhode Island Food Policy Council.