As part of the Michigan State University Cultural Engagement Council's year-long theme of Food and Hunger in 2012-13, RCAH students and faculty, along with other campus units like the Food Security Group in the Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics Department, planned and implemented several curricular and cocurricular activities around issues of food, food culture, food sovereignty, and social justice.
In keeping with the RCAH's mission as an interdisciplinary college of arts and humanities with a strong focus on civic and cultural engagement, the approach to issues of food and hunger were interdisciplinary and diverse. Rather than seeing food and hunger as “simply” issues of quantity, quality, and distribution to be addressed through improvements in agricultural sciences and more efficient policies of distribution, the RCAH approached food on multiple levels: as the locus of historical and cultural meaning and aesthetics; as an issue of power, sovereignty and community; as economics, politics and social justice.
Food and hunger-centric events and activities planned by RCAH students and faculty included:
- Professor Estrella Torrez coordinated the October 2012 residency and LookOut! Art Gallery exhibition of Navajo artist and community activist Will Wilson. Wilson's visit was co-sponsored by Art | Art History | Design, American Indian Studies, Lyman Briggs College, and the RCAH. Through his work, Will Wilson engages the historical relationship of photography to the colonization of Native North Americans. His latest iteration of the Auto Immune Response series features an installation of a hogan greenhouse entitled Auto Immune Response LAB. Indigenous food plants are grown inside the hogan, and Wilson states that he hopes the "project will serve as a pollinator, creating formats for exchange and production that question and challenge the social, cultural, and environmental systems that surround us."
- Professors Eric Aronoff and Dylan Miner organized a public screening of The Garden in the RCAH Theater on Tuesday, November 13. The Garden is an engaging and powerful look at the famous political and social battle over the largest community garden in the United States, located in south central Los Angeles.
- On Monday, November 19, in Snyder-Phillips Hall, the first in a series of Hunger Dialogues focused on the family meal, using Thanksgiving traditions as a point of departure. Unlike the conventional Oxfam Hunger Banquet in which participants are divided into three groups, each receiving a different quality meal, participants in this event were served one of three holiday meals from different regions of the world. Comparing the Thanksgiving meal with these other holiday meals sparked discussion about structure, the factors of gender, age, and economic class, and what values they represent in their cultures. By bringing together MSU Culinary Services and the RCAH, this unique event was an opportunity for MSU students and faculty interested in food and culture to engage in discussions over a meal provided by The Gallery dining hall in Snyder-Phillips Hall. The event has been facilitated by a committee of RCAH students and assisted by faculty and staff.
- Professors Anita Skeen and Laura DeLind’s RCAH 291: Hearing Voices: The Art and Application of Story and Storytelling, addressed issues of storytelling and community by examining stories gathered in the neighborhood around the Urbandale Farm in Lansing as one focus. Performances from the "Hearing Voices" course will take place in early February, 2013.
- Professor Eric Aronoff’s RCAH 330: Topics in Nature and Culture incorporated visits to and engagement with the Urbandale Farm in Lansing.
- Professor Dylan Miner investigated organizing a symposium on food and art, through his first-year seminar, RCAH 192: Art and Activism.
- RCAH student Elle Abeles-Allison has been working with “Universities Fighting World Hunger,” a consortium of university students and faculty working to raise awareness of food and hunger issues. Abeles-Allison, along with other university students, helped create “Why Care?"
- Professor Eric Aronoff’s environmental study abroad program in Israel, June 2013, incorporated engaged learning activities with sustainable agriculture (at Kibbutz Lotan, Israel) and ancient and modern techniques of desert agriculture (Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Studies, Sede Boqer, Israel).