For the 2015/15 academic year we awarded the inaugural round of Student Opportunity Grants.  Twelve proposals were selcted that best met the mission of The Food Connection, showed strong project design, and which had strong potential impact on participants or the community.

The funded projects are highlighted below.  We will post publciations, findings, and other materials adn projects are completed.

"Just Food": An Ethnographic Analysis of Race and Class Dynamics in Food Justice Programs
Chhaya Kolavalli (PhD Student, Department of Anthopology).

Drawing on scholarship that suggests exclusionary whiteness in the alternative food movement, this project works to understand how racialized urban geography complicates the efforts of food justice non-profit organizations. Specifically, I investigate how differential raced and classed understandings of city spaces shape the relationship between food justice activists and their recipient populations. Based in Kansas City, Missouri—a city, like Lexington, Kentucky, interested in shaping itself with the goal of inclusive, locally-based food systems—this project will draw comparisons and offer suggestions for local, racially inclusive, food system creation.

Food Pathways in Ancient and Modern Times

Dr. Renée M. Bonzani, (Department of Anthropology), Bruce Manzano (Staff Archaeologist, Department of Anthropology).  

This grant supports the development of a course with a laboratory practicum for undergraduate and potential Master’s degree students to learn techniques and methods which allow for tracing the food pathways of plants and animals from ancient (prehistoric) into modern times. Ethnobotanical sources will then be utilized to track the uses of plants and animals amongst and between indigenous groups focusing mainly on those of the eastern woodlands and southeast of the United States. Comparisons with Historic period food pathways in Kentucky will also be incorporated into the class. The course will also explore approaches to the reintroduction of “lost” plants into the food chain today. Field trips to collect or buy seeds, visit small farms/gardens, and small cooperatives that sale food either in stores or atthe local farmer’s markets will be planned.

Optimizing deep-fat frying of sweet potato– effect of surface coating and freezing rate

Andrew Giaretta (Undergraduate Student), Akinbode Adedeji (Faculty Mentor). 

Fried foods are often associated with health issues, so this project will attempt to find ways (pretreatments and freezing optimization) to reduce calorie and oil content in fried sweet potato without losing its desired characteristics. The findings from this study will be useful to help improve the community health and food system development, especially here on UK campus.

New Roots Lexington

Dr. Ron Hustedee, Dr. Rosalind Harris, Heather Hyden (Community and Leadership Development)

New Roots Lexington cultivates connection between underserved communities and their allies to build cooperative buying groups and forge partnerships with Kentucky farmers. Through our efforts, we seek to develop food justice leaders in food deserts who can facilitate partnerships between food desert communities and Kentucky farmers. By helping to secure access to fresh, local food we simultaneously expand the market for Kentucky farms while eliminating racial and economic disparities in healthy food access.

Kentucky Produced Wine: Challenges and Opportunities

Liang, Hu (Graduate Student), Wuyang Hu (Faculty Mentor). (Agricultural Economics)

The wine industry in Kentucky is expanding fast in both the number of grape growers and the quality of wine. However, to avoid the collapse of the industry such as that seen in the mid 20th century, Kentucky wine producers need to gain better understanding of the market trend and practices in both the Old World (e.g, France and Italy) and the New World (e.g,. the US and Australia). A recent study shows that a wine’s reputation among consumers is more important than any sensory quality. This project will provide information and recommendations on how wine producers in Kentucky can build their reputation and take advantage of the globalizing wine industry by recognizing the new players.

Impact of Local Tax Policy on Food Insecurity

Dr. Yuqing Zheng, Shaheer Burney

This research studies the impact of county level grocery taxes on household food security in the US. We analyze the effect of the grocery tax by comparing participants of SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) to non-participants because participants are generally tax-exempt. The results will be directly relevant to local policymakers in combating food insecurity issues in their communities and will provide insight into the vulnerability of different socioeconomic groups to tax policy. 

Optimizing Student Learning in a Senior-level Capstone Class Through an Immersive Spring Break Study Tour

 Dr. Mark Williams

Funds from this program were used to partially support a spring break study tour with students in an SAG 490 Capstone in Sustainable Agriculture class. The goal of the study tour was to provide students with an intensive experiential emersion into agriculture through visiting and evaluating numerous high-end agriculture and community-based food systems. This year students spent five days touring agricultural related places in the upper mid-west, with a particular focus in the Madison, WI area.

Stipends to Support Student Travel to 2015 Food Waste and Hunger Summit and 2016 2015 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit 

Dr. Tammy Stephenson (Dietetics and Human Nutrition)

University of Kentucky students have taken leadership roles in hunger-related initiatives, including those related to sustainability, reducing food waste, food recovery, community engagement and education, and innovative approaches to fighting world hunger.   UK is an active member of the Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFWH) international organization and, in December 2014, was a charter school in the Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) proclamation of colleges and universities world-wide to serve as leaders in the fight against hunger. Five University of Kentucky students traveled to Athens, Georgia April 17-19, 2015 to participate in the 2015 Food Waste and Hunger Summit.  Students engaged in a variety of activities, including learning about the on-campus rooftop garden used to support University of Georgia food recovery efforts.  University of Kentucky students spent the weekend learning about hunger and food waste and volunteering at the University of Georgia Rooftop Garden with other Campus Kitchens and Food Recovery Network Chapters.  According one student, "This is mind-blowing to see how several leaders across the nation participate in this movement!"