Emerson Fellow Kate Northway ’11 Promotes Local Food Movement

Kate Northway '11
Kate Northway '11
“I really just want to help people,” declared Kate Northway ’11, an Emerson Fellowship recipient who will be staying on campus over the summer, pursuing an independent research project in the city of Utica. Northway’s project, titled “Urban Agriculture in Utica: Maintaining Immigrant Identity While Creating Economic Self-Sufficiency,” examines and promotes the local food movement in underprivileged communities. She is working with Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Anne Lacsamana.

Northway has an interest in food production that stems from the documentary, Food Inc, which she saw last summer. Food Inc examines the industrialization of food production, and concludes that mechanized food production results in lower quality products and a consumer base that is further distanced from agriculture than ever before. She also took a class in global feminisms that opened her eyes to issues surrounding social justice.

This summer, Northway is focusing her interest and efforts on residents of the city of Utica. Low-income communities in urban environments often struggle the most with healthy eating for several reasons because imported fresh produce is the more expensive option; fast food restaurants, microwave meals, and unhealthy junk foods are convenient and inexpensive alternatives to fresh produce. However, explained Northway, there is no reason why the locally-grown food movement has to only apply to high-income suburban neighborhoods. Community farms in urban neighborhoods represent social capital and give agency to communities and, in addition, offer healthy and relatively low-cost food.

Northway’s fellowship is more hands-on activism than it is research. She will spend the summer working on starting two community gardens in Utica. One will be at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, a school that just recently purchased a refrigerator because in the past, they had been receiving large amounts of fresh produce but had no way of storing them. Northway hopes to teach the students about nutrition and about the value of being able to grow their own food. Northway’s second garden, at Utica’s Resource Center for the Disabled, will promote a sense of independence and agency among the residents.

Northway is a double major in communication and women’s studies, and sees this project as an attempt to put feminist theory into practice. Women have traditionally been the ones doing a large part of the grocery shopping and cooking, and thus are at the center of the local foods movement. Beyond knowing that she wants to make use of her women’s studies major and help the underprivileged, Northway does not have any concrete career aspirations. “What I’ve been asking myself is, ‘how do I take all the stuff I’ve been learning in academia and apply it outside to help make a better world?’” she said.

Kate Northway '11 is a graduate of Mount Lebanon High School (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
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