Our Mission and Vision
Mission: To integrate social, behavioral, and life sciences into interdisciplinary studies and community dialogue regarding change in regional food systems. We will involve students and faculty in the design, implementation, and evaluation of pilot interventions and participatory community-based research in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands foodshed surrounding Metro Tucson, a UNESCO-designated City of Gastronomy, in a manner that can be replicated, scaled up, and applied to other regions.
Vision: To become the nexus of student and faculty engagement in generating positive change in our regional food system. We will accomplish this in ways that build collaborative capacity, diversity, equity, justice, and resilience in our arid land food system in the face of climate change as well as economic and political uncertainty.
Theory of Change: Faculty and students working together with stakeholders to build and document the impact of robust collaborations among researchers, educators, non-profit food justice advocates, entrepreneurial leaders in the farming and food business sectors, public servants in agencies, and grassroots alliances in civil society. We expect that these collaborations will contribute to the restructuring of our food system to be responsive to a spectrum of human food-related needs.
Theoretical Framework: Rather than assuming a priori that critical food theory, Marxist critiques, neo-liberal strategies, or technological fixes can move the needle toward positive change in our food systems, we wish to test, evaluate, and revise or discard the following hypotheses:
- Direct undergraduate student engagement with both for-profit and non-profit food and farming sectors will foster career readiness, job acquisition, and greater social responsibility with regard to food policies and practices affecting public health, land and water stewardship, and economic well-being.
- Learning to understand, and participating in the redesign of entire food supply chains “from field to fork” can help heal the current urban/rural divide to offer greater social, environmental, and economic health accessible to multiple sectors of our society.
- Production of a wider range of food biodiversity through a variety of venues and more affordable access can tangibly contribute to poverty reduction, enhanced food security, and control of nutrition-related diseases.
- Formal designations such as the UNESCO City of Gastronomy for Tucson can foster both innovation and the dynamic safeguarding of food traditions in new and innovative ways.
- Student and faculty participation in interdisciplinary think-tanks, community-based workshops, learning labs and field institutes ultimately leads to fewer “siloed” approaches to food studies and more solutions-based innovations shared with communities, tax-payers, and educators.
While the Center is not currently providing academic undergraduate, graduate certificate, master’s, doctorate degree programs, or postdoctoral fellowships, such opportunities may emerge in time. In the interim, our outreach and research efforts will consist of:
- A website that will include occasional papers on best practices and policies for advancing change in regional food systems, as well as event listings.
- Annual programming including a lecture series, community dialogue series, and mini-conference that center around a particular theme determined through consensus by the faculty affiliates and Community Advisory Board.
- Community- and region-wide events, such as the 2012 Border Food Summit, the 2015 Food Writing Forum, the 2016 Food Justice, Faith, and Climate Change Forum, and the annual Food and Farm Finance Forum co-sponsored with Local First Arizona.
- Open houses, orientations, research interest groups, and field institutes for graduate students, undergrads, faculty, and visiting scholars or food artisans from other Cities of Gastronomy.
- Applied research projects focused on place-based, regional solutions.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Megan A. Carney, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Regional Food Studies
Assistant Professor, School of Anthropology
The Center reports to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Its leadership consists of a Director, an interdisciplinary group of faculty affiliates, and a Community Advisory Board.