By Kimberly M. Jackson, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry, Spelman College and Director of the Food Studies Program
Note: Spelman College is a private, historically Black, women’s liberal arts college in Atlanta. Founded in 1881, Spelman received its collegiate charter in 1924 and is America’s oldest private historically black liberal arts college for women.
A number of years ago, a team of Spelman College researchers ran across some interesting pictures from our school’s archive.
The photos were from the early 1900s (~1904-1906) and showed students tilling a garden in front of one of our campus buildings, Giles Hall. Researchers also learned Spelman had a dairy farm at the time that helped feed the local Atlanta community.
This continued during both world wars, too, which led to the gardens being known as “Victory Gardens.”
So, food is in our school’s DNA. And we know it’s in Kellogg’s DNA too, ensuring there’s a place at the table for everyone.
That’s why it was an easy decision recently to partner with the company to help grow our food studies program and create a pipeline of career opportunities for our students.
When we formed our partnership, Spelman was the only Historically Black College or University to have a food studies program. Our food program is different – we strive to offer students an interdisciplinary and critical lens to approach today’s food system challenges. Our coursework engages multiple disciplines, such as anthropology, political science, women’s studies, arts, geography, economics, biology, and chemistry, to name a few.
Our goal is for our students to have different global and political conversations around wellbeing, so we can make food better around the world. We know Kellogg greatly values this idea, too.
Under our three-year partnership with Kellogg, we’re reviving and co-designing an agroecological Victory Garden with and for our Spelman students to grow and consume culturally-inclusive produce, native pollinator plants, and medicinal herbs. We can also have discourses on race, geography, land, and ownership – all using the garden as a center point.
It’s small at the moment, but we hope to eventually provide food to the community outside of Spelman.
Our Kellogg partnership doesn’t stop in the garden.
The company is also supporting a new food scholars program comprised of students who have demonstrated a keen interest in food. As members of the scholar cohort, students commit monthly hours to the garden, complete the food studies minor, and engage in professional and academic programming.
Thanks to Kellogg’s funding, we were also able to hire visiting faculty members to teach anthropology studies around food, culture, and black women.
When Spelman goes into partnerships with companies like Kellogg, we’re very intentional. We want to make sure the company has an advocacy spirit and understands what it means to work with a university that focuses on the African diaspora.
We’re grateful Kellogg shares these values and we thank them for supporting our work.