College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

New Course Offers Multidisciplinary Look at Social Inequality in Mississippi

This summer, University of Mississippi students can examine how government policies have shaped the American diet, particularly in north Mississippi.

The new summer session course, “Bringing Food to the People: Food Policy and Social Inequities in Mississippi,” was developed jointly by the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, and the university’s Department of Public Policy Leadership.

The university is a leader in the development of foodways studies as a scholarly discipline, and the public policy leadership program is well-known for producing effective communicators well-versed in policy-making from the local to the global, said John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, or SFA. “With teachers from two complementary departments and a compelling syllabus, the class will, we think, prove a great primer on the interdisciplinary approaches that can be applied to the field,” Edge said.

The course will be led by Jill Cooley, postdoctoral fellow and visiting assistant professor at SFA, and Jody Holland, visiting assistant professor of public policy leadership.

Cooley notes that interdisciplinary, team-taught courses provide a unique opportunity for students.

“From these different perspectives of history and policy, we will consider how the nation’s food policy developed historically and how public policy continues to influence American diets,” she said.

The course will include seminar and practicum components. Cooley and Holland have posed the question of how government policies have shaped the socio-economic and political realities of north Mississippi. Studies of the intersection of race, class and gender in 20th century Southern history will provide context for understanding historic and contemporary federal policy efforts to ease hunger and poverty.

For the practicum component of the course, students will examine area farmers markets to gauge the effectiveness of current efforts to revitalize the area by making local, fresh, healthy foods accessible to economically-disadvantaged populations.

“The U. S. Department of Agriculture estimates between 30,000 and 50,000 farmers currently sell at farmers markets,” Holland said. “This number represents a growth spurt in farmers markets, which emphasize small and mid-scale farming operations. This course will explore the impacts and policy due to emerging local food economy.”

The course listing is at the graduate level, SST/PPL 598, but advanced undergraduates are encouraged to enroll. UM will offer the course during the first summer term, starting June 1 and ending June 27. Thanks to funding from the Chisolm Foundation, the Center for the Study of Southern Culture  and SFA plan to offer more foodways classes in this fall and in the spring of 2013. To enroll in SST/PPL 598, students should visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/registrar/csinfo.html

In fall 2011, the SFA received funding from the Chisholm Foundation to fund the post-doctoral position until 2014, guaranteeing more new class options for students.

For more information on the SFA, go to http://southernfoodways.org/.