Morgan Franklin, @morganmfranklin
February 21, 2013

Week 5: Reality Check and a Class Project!

“These are the times that try men’s souls”- Thomas Paine. For college students in New Orleans this spring, times have gotten pretty tough. As the city says goodbye to the sheer amazingness that was both the Superbowl and Mardi Gras within a ten day time frame, students on Tulane’s campus have been forced to say hello to the mountains of readings and papers and problem sets we’ve been allowing to accumulate. Fortunately for my classmates and I, this week in the Politics of Environmental Justice we had the opportunity to receive instructions on something that will get us out of the library and into the community; our EJ class project!

This semester our class will work with the Food Policy Advisory Committee (FPAC) which is a collective of community partners who focus on attaining better food access in the city. We will be broken into five groups, all tasked with varying responsibilities. The first group will synthesize research on both food as an environmental justice issue as well as the current state of environmental justice in New Orleans. This research will help set the other groups work in the necessary context concerning present food availability in New Orleans. Among other constructs this research will delve into problematic entities such as air pollution, racial and socioeconomic health disparities and health hazard proximities.

Three of the groups will be doing field work and collecting data in specific neighborhoods in the Greater New Orleans area. In terms of data collection, each group will be charged with conducting recorded focus groups with neighborhood residents about food choices and food availability. Additionally, these students will conduct quantitative assessments of food stores in their given neighborhoods.

The final group will conduct interviews with various stakeholders including policymakers, public officials, and invested citizens to hold meaningful conversations about the availability of food within the city. These students will also be responsible for planning our Food Justice Symposium, the final event of the class project.

As someone who tends to love group projects, while I was excited about this class activity beforehand I am especially excited to begin considering all of the new information we have been given about our work. At the outset, I have a few questions that I hope will be addressed throughout our work with the Food Policy Advisory Committee. First, as we look holistically at our findings, will we be able to see any correlation between stakeholder opinions and the inevitable food access disparities we will observe between neighborhoods? Next, in preparing for the final class event, the Food Justice Symposium, what are the topics that will garner the most interest from community partners and various stakeholders? Third, when powerful corporate interests impact governmental policy concerning food access (looking at you Gerber and the WIC program), are there measures that can/should be taken to counteract such influence?

Finally, is there a way for us, as newly impassioned college students, to address the barriers to equal food access within our city as we attend an institution of extreme relative privilege? Please continue to join us as we seek to answer these questions and complete our class project, and feel free to help us by providing your own questions and comments. We’d love your feedback and as always, thanks for joining us this week in class.

The “This Week in Class” blog series is written by Morgan Franklin, AJC Head Research Fellow and a student in Professor Harris-Perry’s class. You can download the full class syllabus, and then join Morgan every week as she invites to think about the class lecture and join the discussion.

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