Food and social justice advocate Avalon Gupta VerWiebe named first recipient of the Evan Weissman scholarship
Avalon Gupta VerWiebe, a graduate student in food studies at Falk College, is the first to receive the Evan Weissman Scholarship, a new scholarship fund honoring the late Professor Weissman who supports graduate students in food studies. Gupta VerWiebe’s personal dedication and continued work in the areas of food and social justice and community feeding projects follow the legacy of Professor Weissman’s long-standing commitment to food justice and the use of food as a tool for social change.
Gupta VerWiebe is originally from Syracuse, but moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where she attended high school and earned her undergraduate degree in public health. âFrom the systemic inequalities I witnessed, I developed a passion for environmental justice and later food justice,â says Gupta VerWiebe. Before starting her graduate studies, she was involved in many organizations working in the field of food justice, such as Louisville Community Grocery, Field Day Family Farm, Garden Commons Community Garden, New Roots Fresh Stop Markets and Cardinal Cupboard Food Pantry. , all in Louisville.
âI applied to the Food Studies program at Syracuse University because it offers courses that examine the social, political, and cultural elements of the food system,â she says. “These courses give me the tools to advocate for transformational change.” Falk College’s Food Studies program focuses on the social, political, economic, and environmental contexts of food production, manufacturing, distribution, and consumption, locally, nationally, and globally. Students in the program gain an in-depth understanding of food policy and governance, gastronomy, health outcomes of food systems, human nutrition, and access to food.
âI hope I can one day work towards a more just food system that allows everyone to access culturally appropriate, delicious, safe and healthy foods, grown and distributed in fair ways,â adds Gupta VerWiebe.
At Syracuse University, Gupta VerWiebe is interning at the University’s Lender Center for Social Justice. As a Lender Center Fellow, she works with the Syracuse Onondaga Food Systems Alliance (SOFSA) and is engaged in efforts to create a statement of fairness for SOFSA. In addition, she works with the Onondaga Nation and with youth to document the culinary stories of the elders.
âAvalon is distinguished by its deep commitment to social and racial justice in the food system,â says Professor Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Advisor to Gupta VerWiebe and Director of the Food Graduate Program. âSince returning to Syracuse last year, she has seized every opportunity to get involved in community food system projects here in the city. She embodies Professor Weissman’s personal and professional commitments to community-based research and the creation of lasting relationships that improve food access and sustainability for all.
Professor Evan Weissman was a tireless advocate for equity in the food system. A very accessible and engaged teacher who engaged students in community work to advance social change, his efforts have laid the groundwork for many communities regionally, nationally and beyond for food justice initiatives at the grassroots level. based. He passed away suddenly in April 2020. To honor his legacy and continue the work he so deeply believed in, his family established the Evan Weissman Scholarship Fund to cover the tuition fees of graduate students in food studies.
âThis scholarship is an invaluable gift that will allow me to continue my studies,â says Gupta VerWiebe. âI am very honored to receive this scholarship on behalf of Evan Weissman. Although I didn’t have the chance to meet Dr Weissman, stories of how he advocated for social justice in the local food system and within the university inspire me to do the same. .
For more information on the Food Studies program at Falk College, Syracuse University, please visit Falk College website.