Author: Faryn Borella
A new, student-driven two-unit gardening and cooking class was announced last Tuesday that will provide students with a hands-on educational experience in the fields of sustainable agriculture and cooking. The class is being organized by the student organizations FEAST and Well Fed.
The class is currently scheduled to take place in a two hour block of time once a week and will consist of three components. In addition to hands-on gardening work and hands-on cooking classes, the class will bring in guest lecturers from across campus and from the Eagle Rock and the Los Angeles community to talk on issues such as food justice, health and nutrition.
“Our goal is to give students a real practice of the theories that we teach and to allow kids to really connect with their environment and their food,” economics major and Co-President of Well Fed Jeff Ross (senior) said.
The initiative to create the class began this fall, when economics major and President of FEAST Giovanni Saarman (senior) approached Professor Robert Gottlieb of the Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) department and pitched the idea of a gardening class. Concurrently, Co-Presidents of Well Fed Ross and UEP major Tyler Morgan (senior) had the idea to start up a cooking class focusing on sustainability and local, organic food. The two approached Saarman, and the three decided to collaborate.
“After thinking about it, we realized we would have more leverage and an easier time if we combined them,” Morgan said.
Professor Gottlieb signed on in support of the class but told the students that they would have to take the lead in creating the curriculum, according to Saarman. In doing so, the three have run into some obstacles.
“I think number one is actually money,” Saarman said. In order to bring in guest lecturers and master gardeners, as well as to buy the supplies and equipment necessary to run the class, the student organizers are going to have to acquire a significant amount of funding.
The students are currently looking into possible funding options. They will apply to the Center for Community Based Learning (CCBL), as well as to the President’s and Dean’s Office. Another option is to apply to the college’s Sustainability Fund, but the students stressed that turning to that option would be a last resort.
“It’s a class, so we should fund it through academic channels before we turn to the Sustainability Fund because otherwise it could become a precedent that any sustainability-related class that needs extra money, they’re just going to apply to the fund,” Saarman said. Therefore, the students are seeking out other alternatives for funding but are not feeling a great deal of support from the college.
“I feel like the college doesn’t want to give us funds until we prove that it’s a real, institutionalized thing, but we’re not going to be able to do that until we get funds,” Morgan said.
So far there has been a lot of student interest in the class, with over 40 students attempting to register.
“We have a lot of student backing behind this class, so I think we have a very good cause and a reason to ask for more funding,” Ross said.
“Basically, the more people hear about it and the more it becomes institutionalized and the more the college sees that this kind of thing is wanted by the students, people will see it’s a real thing and not just another club,” Morgan said.
The students have also run into an issue in finding a location for the cooking component of the class. Due to zoning codes, there are no kitchens on campus that students can legally cook in. All kitchens in the dorms are “warming kitchens” and are not supposed to be used for food preparation.
Students are looking into possible options, such as renting a facility off-campus or using an outdoor space equipped with a barbecue grill. Another option is to use the Rangeview kitchen, but that would require for the kitchen to be remodeled in order to fit zoning codes for student food preparation.
“That is the space that has the most potential to be used in the future,” Ross said, but he also said that doing so would require a great deal of money.
Despite all of the obstacles, the student organizers were positive that the class will take place next semester.
“We have a number of good connections within the community,” Ross said. “There will be some guest speakers that have already said that they will come in for a very low price and may volunteer their time, which is very exciting to know that people support this area of study within our community.”
The students also hope to expand the program in the future.
“Going forward, it is important to institutionalize it and make it more part of the academic side of the college, not just students putting in their own time,” Saarman said. “For me, I see a sustainable agriculture class offered on a regular basis that can fulfill a lab science.”
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