The Greensboro-based Hillsdale Fund has awarded Guilford College a $30,000 grant to support start-up funds for a sustainable food systems (SFS) major that the College will launch in spring 2017.
Guilford is the first four-year college in North Carolina with a major focused on sustainability, food justice and food advocacy. A third of students’ credits toward the major will be earned through high-impact experiential learning such as internships, research, service learning and skills courses.
The major will fully integrate the nationally rated Guilford College Farm into the academic program, and it will support existing efforts and find new ways to fight hunger and food hardship in the Greensboro-High Point area by coordinating curricular and co-curricular learning opportunities.
“This unique major is rooted in Guilford College’s core values, and it will produce graduates poised to make a difference in Guilford County and beyond,” said Kyle Dell, associate professor of political science and co-chair of environmental studies. “As an institution committed to social justice and local impact, Guilford is perfectly positioned to help build a sustainable food system for our area.”
The new SFS program was approved by the faculty and administration in December, and since that time the College has been seeking support from local foundations, alumni and other individuals for an accelerated launch.
The Hillsdale Fund was established in 1963 by the family of Lunsford Richardson, founder of the Vick Chemical Company. It provides funding to a wide range of nonprofit organizations.
“We are deeply grateful to the Hillsdale Fund for making the initial grant to support our start-up expenses for sustainable food systems faculty development, curriculum and community engagement,” said Ara Serjoie, vice president for advancement.
In developing the new major, Guilford faculty members and students incorporated hands-on learning based on their examination of sustainable food programs at other institutions. They were advised by food studies pioneer Molly Anderson of Middlebury College.
“Educating and preparing a new generation of community members requires an institution of higher education that has a proven track record of producing graduates prepared to engage in the critical and creative work necessary to rebuild a more socially just food system to sustain our ommunity,” says Kyle.
Guilford College students have volunteered in food justice for many years, providing a direct benefit to county residents struggling with food hardship. For example, Helen Mandalinic ’14 helped establish a mobile market that brings free produce to the Glenhaven neighborhood and spearheaded the community kitchen, which re-purposes cafeteria surplus to feed the homeless. She received the 2013 NC Campus Compact Community Impact Student Award for her work to feed the hungry.
“An accelerated launch of the new SFS program will scale up opportunities for students like Helen to engage in serious academic study and practical work in food systems in Guilford County,” says Marlene McCauley, professor of geology and earth sciences and co-chair of environmental studies.
Guilford’s farm, one of the Top 30 Sustainable College-Run Farms nationally, supplies fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to the dining hall, a CSA, an on-campus farmers market and several off-campus grocery stores and restaurants. It will support the major as a living laboratory, offering skills courses and practicums every semester.