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Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in The New Political’s summer magazine.

Ohio University cut hundreds of employees, dozens of administrative positions, individual courses and entire programs as a result of an alleged budget crisis. 

The food studies program, led by recently laid-off professor Theresa Moran, was among these cuts. Moran created the food studies program in 2013 with the goal of offering courses that “expose students to thinking about a big issue in the 21st century.” 

“Food studies is an exploration of production of food, consumption of food, meaning of food and representation of food,” Moran said.

The program included several main “theme courses,” as well as study abroad opportunities and local internships. Guest speakers, or “food activists” — in Moran’s words — were also invited to speak. 

The impact of the food studies program extended beyond the classroom, most noticeably with the student farm, which helped educate the community on how to appreciate food more. 

“It was a site for experiential learning for all students, to develop lifelong skills and a lifelong appreciation of where their food comes from, so that wherever students end up, they will seek food from their local food systems,” Moran said.

Moran said she feels that the overall experience of the farm is important, too. 

“Students grow food, and then students can use that food for their own consumption,” Moran said. “They can donate to the food pantry. They can donate it to the student run market. It’s a way that you can get hands-on experience with food production.” 

Many students enjoyed the student farm. Sophia Lingrell, a nutrition student, helped on the farm and has a deep admiration for it. 

“Anyone that has visited the farm has a deep love and respect for the work done there and it is amazing to see,” Lingrell wrote in an email. 

She believed growing food there paid off in the end.

“There is nothing more rewarding than spending time and energy on a product and watching it grow into a beautiful vegetable that someone will get,” Lingrell said. 

Lingrell is upset by the university cutting food studies, not only because of the experiences offered to students, but because of the importance of food in Southeastern Ohio, a region that deals with high levels of food scarcity. 

She said professors also worked with insurance companies to create programs where purchasing from locally-sourced programs led to lower bills. This helped promote a healthy and sustainable diet. 

Produce was also sold to students in Grover Center, giving them access to fresh and sustainable produce at a low price. 

“I can only imagine that losing this program will cause many people to lose access to low cost, sustainable produce,” Lingrell said.

Many questions surround what will happen to students currently enrolled in the program. Moran does not have an answer at the moment.

“I read that the university is going to find a way for those students who have already enrolled in the certificate to complete the certificate,” Moran said, although she added she doesn’t know anything for sure.

Without concrete answers, Lingrell is left with little hope.

“In the end, I can only assume that they will get rid of the farm, which breaks my heart,” she said. “We would be losing one of the most unique and interesting places at Ohio University.” 

Moran believes the food studies program could educate students on current issues, so she said the timing of this cut is unfortunate given the economic turbulence brought on by the pandemic.  

“Especially now, when COVID-19 has really ripped the veil off of the failures of our industrial food system and shown us the critical importance of local food systems,” she said. “Surely we can learn from this to understand that we have to be strengthening our local food access.”  

Moran said Ohio U President Duane Nellis showed a great deal of interest in the program when he first started working at the university and that he came to visit the farm soon after arriving.

Moran is very critical of the university’s decision. When asked if the university was short-sighted in cutting the program, she went a step further.

“They are ignoring the value that they say they hold, which is experiential, interdisciplinary learning and the focus of community engagement,” Moran said. “My program, I did all of that.”

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