The food studies certificate program and Director Theresa Moran are being terminated from Ohio University on May 15 due to budget cuts.
Moran was a former visiting assistant professor and lecturer in the English department, then an uncategorized employee of the College of Arts and Sciences, before becoming the food studies director in 2014.
Moran thinks the program was inspirational through the blending of hunger through sociology classes, the location of food through courses in geography and the nutritional aspects of food through health and science courses.
“The idea was to be the lynchpin between different courses,” Moran said. “Take a big needle and weave all of this together in order to offer students a certificate program and fill in their gen ed requirements.”
The program was also a way for students to think differently about food related problems in the 21st century, Moran said.
“The food studies program at Ohio University seems to be the most engaging program in the community and incorporates so many exterior initiatives,” Brady Dotson, a junior studying plant biology, said in an email. “I have met so many great people who feel the same way about local, honest and small scale food production, and I whole-heartedly believe ... the Food Studies’ program affiliates like Cat’s Cupboard, Community Food Initiative and OU student farm will take a big hit.”
Dotson has a certificate in food studies. For Dotson, the certificate will be used as an avenue to focus on small-scale agriculture and local communities.
The Farm to OHIO Working Group, an initiative made by Moran’s Sugar Bush Foundation grant, has led to growth in small-scale agriculture in Athens. As a result, the student farm grew fresh produce, which was sold on campus and used by Culinary Services in the dining halls and markets. The Office of Sustainability, along with two local nonprofit organizations, Rural Action and Community Food Initiative, are key players in bridging the gap between the university and Athens.
Joy Kostansek, a former graduate assistant of the food studies program, believes the bridge is food.
“The university is removed from the community,” Kostansek said. “We’re trying to bridge the gap between campus and community.”
When Kostansek found out about the food program being canceled, she created an online petition in hopes the program and Moran would stay at the university. Now, the petition has about 1,800 signatures.
“I’ve always known there’s a huge community behind us,” Kostansek said.
The termination of the program and Moran comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which is forcing OU to transition to an online format.
“Now more than ever with the COVID pandemic, we need to learn and to think about the food we eat, where it comes from, and how our food choices affect us, our community and the world,” the petition reads.
Kostansek’s frustrations toward OU’s decision stems from the university’s backing of experiential learning, an approach to education that emphasizes engaged student learning through direct experience and reflection to increase knowledge, develop skills and elucidate values, according to the university’s website. The food studies program and its involvement is an example of that type of learning.
“The university states they want to prioritize experiential learning but cannot stand up to protect it,” Kostansek said. “Experiential learning is being used as a marketing tool, but they will not support it.”
Although the program will be cut May 15, OU has plans put in place for the 10 students who are still in the process of obtaining their certificates, university spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said. Details are not known at this time.
Moran knows she’s made an impact on students’ lives through food studies even though she’s leaving the university.
“Food studies was the reason why I stayed in Athens,” Rachel McDonald, a former food studies student and food access coordinator at Rural Action, said. “I wouldn’t have found my career path and wouldn’t have been part of the community. I wouldn’t have stayed in Athens after graduating.”