Dr Anna Palliser travelled to Rhode Island, Providence in August 2019 to take up her Fulbright Scholarship at Johnson and Wales University there. She stayed there for four and a half months researching the Providence local food system and had a wonderful time taking advantage of all the opportunities offered by such a prestigious scholarship.
Anna’s interest in local food systems stems directly from her work in climate change. ‘It is so clear that the current global, chemical and fossil fuel intensive agricultural system is not going to be able to meet our food needs for much longer when faced with the predicted changes due to climate change,’ Anna says. ‘One recommended solution is to focus far more on local food systems in local economies, food systems that directly support local communities, not only economically but also by providing highly nutritious food that the global system often doesn’t provide for poorer communities.’
Anna carried out twenty-two interviews with gardeners, urban farmers, food bank staff, food market sellers, herbalists, food hub managers, soil remidiators, councillors and others in Providence. ‘The interviews gave me a good grasp of the amazing local food system in Providence,’ says Anna. She is currently working on a report she hopes to deliver around New Zealand as she does a speaking tour.
The research was only one part of her role in the USA; another important part was to be an ambassador for New Zealand. ‘I gave talks to staff and students at Johnson and Wales University and the University of Maine, and to communities in Providence, as well as in Shreveport, Texas,’ explains Anna. ‘And early on in my time in Providence, my husband and I became involved with a project for Veterans in the USA, and spent a weekend cooking for them, working with top chefs and their students from Johnson and Wales University.’
Anna was overwhelmed by the kindness and support she and her husband received during their time in Providence. ‘The professors at Johnson and Wales University were so amazingly kind to me,’ Anna says. ‘They took us to markets, restaurants, took us to meet their families, let me stay the night in their homes if it helped me get to an interview and several of them became close friends who I am still in touch with.’ The support of the university was an intrinsic part of what made Anna’s scholarship a success, as this paved the way for opportunities to meet people, deliver talks and attend gatherings. One gathering Anna attended was a First Nations conference on food sovereignty in Green Bay, Michigan. This gave her the opportunity to learn about first nation ways protocols and issues as well as about the ways many tribes are investing heavily into their own local food systems on tribal land. Another gathering was organised by the USA Fulbright Association in Kentucky, where Anna was invited, along with about 100 other Fulbright Scholars, to a seminar about the opioid crisis in America. ‘This was a wonderful opportunity to meet other Fulbrighters and learn more about a crisis which is also impacting people here in New Zealand, although currently it seems far less than in the USA,’ Anna explained.
Johnson and Wales University provided Anna with office space and a laptop and access to university libraries and other facilities. ‘It is actually quite similar to SIT in some ways,’ says Anna. ‘It is a teaching university, rather than a research university and has a strong focus on vocational education, especially hospitality and catering.’ One exciting project the University is currently working on is a degree in sustainable local food systems, where chefs and sustainable development programs are coming together to offer a blend of cooking local food, farm to table cooking and other local food system papers, along with papers on food sovereignty and food security. Anna has been helping with the development of this course by giving feedback and suggesting background reading. She is also working developing similar papers on sustainable local food that could be included in the environmental management program here at SIT.