by Emma Freestone
My project with the Critical Food Studies Lab is inspired by something I started working on last semester in my Food and Poverty class that focused on the cliff effects of poverty. Cliff effects describe the extreme loss of net worth once an individual is no longer eligible for benefits such as child care, Section 8 Housing, SNAP, etc. due to a marginal increase in income. For the research project we collaborated with Steve Thomas, director of Monroe County United Ministries (MCUM) and he became our mentor as he taught us about examples of cliff effects that he sees the patrons at MCUM struggle with daily. Our main goal of the project has been to research and compile a list of eligibility requirements for a variety of benefits including SNAP (food stamps), CCDF (child care voucher), Hoosier Healthcare, On My Way Pre-K, etc. in order to create a worksheet and spreadsheet for financial coaches to use as a tool to walk MCUM’s clients through and ensure that they can anticipate when they may be close to an eligibility cut off and prepare accordingly.
Connected in an important way, is the research that Belén Rogers is doing with in-person, voluntary interviews at MCUM’s Client Choice pantry to listen to patron’s thoughts on how the pantry’s environments impact them, why they choose the foods they do, how they prepare the foods they choose, and if they choose the same food every visit. The overarching goal of this project is to compile the interviewee’s anecdotes in order to ascertain how to provide preferred food options in a more cost-effective and efficient way. I have been helping Belén conduct these interviews each week and we have received positive responses from individuals eager to participate and share their experiences.
I also have started working on a project to research farmers in Monroe County and surrounding counties who have participated in gleaning. I plan to survey those who don’t glean to determine if they have interest but are disconnected and lacking support, discover to what extent food waste could be eliminated by gleaning, and see if a potential gleaning network could be mapped out between farms and food banks. Harriman Farms utilizes 225 acres spread out over several fields and the primary client that purchases his produce is Kroger, therefore if it doesn’t comply with a certain standard the food is not accepted. Ten thousand (100,000) pounds of produce was gleaned from Harriman Farms last season (Hoosier Hills Food Bank). I have been in contact with farms that are on the list of having participated in gleaning before with Hoosier Hills Food Bank and have been going through the list of vendors at the Bloomington Farmer’s Market. As I go, I have been gathering data on the locations of the farms so I will eventually be able to create an interactive map. My goals for this semester in the lab are to improve my GIS modeling skills and help analyze the research from the interviews at MCUM with Belén and write a paper with the findings.