Reflecting on Food Accessibility and Our Own Impacts

Writing my final paper was a very useful and reflective experience for me, and it is one of the few “final assignments” that I have actually really enjoyed. For some background, my group was working with issues of food accessibility and we decided to interview University of Washington professors whose work was relevant to or intersected with that topic. We ended up interviewing Professor Elizabeth Wheat (College of the Environment) and Professor Anne Goodchild (Civil and Environmental Engineering) about their thoughts on food accessibility, as seen through the lens of their respective studies.

It was very interesting to connect some of the information they gave us with the content we’ve gotten from class, especially pertaining to the economic implications of food access and the public discourse that happens surrounding food. I really enjoyed this, and it was great to be able to dive a bit deeper into those topics.

We conducted these interviews over the course of a few weeks, and while they were engaging and interesting at the time, some of the content and core messages got lost in the shuffle of dead week and finals for me. That’s why it was extremely meaningful for me to go back, listen to our interviews again, and synthesize them with other course materials to identify the big takeaways that I can be applying in my own life.

The two big takeaways that we got from Professors Wheat and Goodchild was that 1) we need to be more conscious of our actions and the impact that those actions have on the world around us. Every time we order a single item from Amazon and it comes in a box that’s four times bigger than it needs to be, with three plastic bags and a ton of plastic filling holding it in place, consider a more efficient and less wasteful way of obtaining that product in the future. Recognize these patterns that occur in your life over time and take substantive and meaningful steps to change them in a positive way. And number 2) choose something to focus on that you are passionate about and that will improve the world around you. Devote your life to something meaningful and bring in into the lives of your friends, family, and loved ones. It sounds cliché, but sometimes we need to be reminded that we actually do need to be the change that we want to see in the world, because if we don’t take that first step how can we expect anyone else to?

(Image curtesy of the USDA)

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on Food Accessibility and Our Own Impacts

  1. Han Eckelberg

    Hi Jared, since completing this course and understanding the diverse and abundant connections around food, I too feel that these final assignments have been beneficial for reflecting our own lives. I find your action project very interesting because it reminds me of our class. I am pursuing a major in communications and in the arts, which at first seems not all within the realm of politics in food ecology. But as we have learned in class, subjects from across the University intersect with food in some kind of way. For me, I noticed how food is important for cultures around the world, and I wish to explore more into how that that influences their arts and organizations that surround food. And as you captured, Professors from Environment, and Civil and Environmental Engineering departments also have direct connections with food politics. Although our knowledge on food and the networks surrounding that system may be vast, just as your professors you interviewed said “choose something to focus on that you are passionate about and that will improve the world around you.” I would also stress that we should also focus on how interconnected we are with each other and with our whole global system, so that we can better understand the effects of our actions.

  2. Rachel Mackenzie Hand

    Response 3:
    Hi Jared,
    I really like the idea of interviewing professors related to food accessibility, it’s an important issue right now and it’s interesting to hear what our mentors have to say about it. I actually also found writing the final paper to be easy and important for self reflection; my project was on food waste and I found it really important for myself to donate the food that we did. We donated food from Einstein Bagels and Whole Foods to Roots youth shelter, and I found myself really enjoying being able to do something so simple yet so effective. These stores would have thrown the food out, but instead people that cannot afford to purchase anything else were able to get it for free. I feel like completing this project and writing this paper has been really impactful for me.
    I also really liked the point about Amazon packages. There’s so much plastic in each package, when we could easily just go to the store to get the same product. There is also entirely too much plastic usage in stores these days; I saw in a grocery store last week that they had apples and oranges wrapped in plastic wrap and then placed in plastic boxes. There was absolutely no reason for that – the peel of the fruit is a natural wrap for it. I think these particular wasteful activities need to change, and our planet will be much better off.
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Faylen Lopez

    Response 3:
    Hi Jared,
    I admire the effort your group went to with arranging these interviews with Professors Wheat and Goodchild simply because it must have required a lot of coordination, and it seems like something not everyone else thought of to do. Except for our peers and the instructors who have worked diligently to inform us of the disparities among socioeconomic classes’ struggles with food accessibility, the public is not often given the same opportunity to engage in such a conversation. Our understanding of the living systems approach, which emphasizes the importance of acknowledging our consumption of ecological resources, has taught us that this world’s sustainability goes beyond ourselves. Essentially, no matter how big or small our actions may be, they will inevitably have an influence beyond something we can comprehend. With that in mind, I like how you admitted that even as you completed this project you found yourself getting caught up in the confusion of food accessibility’s complexity. Food accessibility isn’t just about having access to food. It’s goes even further and discusses the affordability of food that is substantial/healthy and not just convenient for us as consumers. Yet, there are many impoverished individuals who are forced to accept whatever comes their way; they are unable to question the impact of their diet or are kept from making changes due to constraints outside of their own control. So, here we are now with this understanding, being in a position of privilege, that we must inform others about such inequality so that we may progress towards a day where people may gain the comfortability to take all steps necessary to disavow this corruptive food system and its associated conflictions for the sake of justice. It was truly enlightening to see you share this same sentiment, and I am glad that you were able to take away such a meaningful message even amidst the chaos of school ending.


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