Dr Anna Palliser’s Fulbright Scholarship to the US has borne fruit in the form of two new papers for the School of Environmental Management at the Southern Institute of Technology; students will soon be able to choose the new papers in the progressive and contemporary field of Sustainable Food Practices.
In 2019, Environmental Management (EM) Tutor, Dr Palliser, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to undertake research on local food systems in the US, she spent nearly five months based at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, to achieve this.
“What interested me was that in the US there were many universities and tertiary institutes doing content about local food systems and alternative agriculture systems. Food Sustainability is a very ‘now’ topic and global awareness around it has been increasing for some time.”
“Consumers are far more aware around the issues of food production from the paddock to harvesting, to transporting to selling, and answering the question ‘how do we make our food systems more sustainable?’” she says.
Food sustainability defined is about ‘having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food’. Local food systems are when the grower, the distributor and the seller are all local and connected, and it’s a model which creates multiple benefits for communities.
She said it can avoid the middle man and create closer connections between the producer/farmer, distributor and the consumer. Local food sources tend to grow healthier food, there’s far less transport miles attached (in getting food to its market) and it creates far greater opportunities for diversity – “diversity in what’s being grown, and also bringing a diversity of food employment options to our local communities, so there’s great potential around extending diversity in multiple areas.”
Compare this with the dominant western/global model of huge multinational corporations controlling food production, creating monocultures by reducing food diversity, and then where do the profits go? Often they’re being dispersed far from where the food is produced - with the producer missing out or not receiving adequate reimbursement for their product, she said.
“We explore the questions around who holds all the power here and how do profits get distributed?” The papers will also cover food poverty and how communities are marginalised from access to good food.
Dr Palliser says her time in Providence got her impassioned about bringing teaching in that area into the EM programme, adding, it appears that content gap hasn’t been filled here in Aotearoa.
“It doesn’t look like tertiary institutions here are offering much in terms of sustainable food systems courses yet,” said Dr Palliser, “so there could potentially be a lot of interest in these papers being offered at SIT.”
The papers are being developed as a third elective in the Graduate Diploma in Environmental Management, alongside Renewable Energy Auditing and Mineral Resources Management, and as electives in the second and third year of the Bachelor of Environmental Management.
Dr Palliser says the content of the papers sits very nicely in the EM programme, however they could also be very suitable electives in the schools of hospitality, or business and management.
“From a business perspective it can delve into start-ups and local food restaurants, which links into tourism and hospitality, it links into so many other things.”
“Potentially it could be a useful addition to several programmes, but we’re in the throes of this process, it hasn’t been fully explored yet.”
The papers’ development has been very well supported by the school’s advisory committee, and current students have given positive feedback as well. “They would choose to study it if they could,” she added. The papers are expected to be ready and offered at the beginning of 2022.
Reiterating the privilege she was given through winning the Fulbright scholarship, Dr Palliser says it has been the catalyst for all of the research produced and subsequent paper development.
“I was so fortunate, it created a burning wish in me to bring it back here,” she said.
Keep an eye out for updates on the SIT website: under Environmental Management page - graduate diploma and degree courses.