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PWR 91HK: Farmer, Scientist, Activist, Chef: Communicating for Food Security and Food Justice

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Food is the substance of life. It is also a crucial lens for understanding our moment—both a marker of ecological health and community connection. We find ourselves at a crucial moment: Climate change has led to droughts and wildfires that threaten to disrupt the region's agriculture. During the pandemic, food banks were overwhelmed by rising demand. Immigrants from around the world strive to sustain their food cultures. We will begin by surveying the food issues facing the Bay Area and introduce foundational concepts: food security, food sovereignty, food justice, foodways, foodsheds, etc.

This course directs attention to the individuals and organizations who are shaping and transforming the way we eat now—at varied locations like farmers markets, community gardens, nonprofits, food banks, and startups. Guest speakers from farms, advocacy organizations, and businesses from around the region will share their work and perspectives. Two key questions frame our inquiry: How do these actors strive to enact their vision for a healthy and equitable food system? And how can Stanford students join them in this effort while honing their rhetorical skills?

This is a Cardinal Course certified by the Haas Center. Groups of students will be matched with a Bay Area community partner. Students need not have a connection with an organization coming into the class; they will work with the instructor and the Haas Center to connect with relevant organizations. Groups will meet their community partner to discuss their needs. In collaboration with their organization, the groups will then propose and execute a project that benefits the community partner. This may include original or library research. To deliver your findings, you will identify the relevant genre for the intended audience and purpose. Sample projects include a policy brief on precision agriculture; a podcast based on interviews with scientists, farmworkers, or food bank clients; or a video profiling emerging ethnic chefs. During this process, you will develop a range of writing and oral communication skills. You will practice project management, collaborative group work, and expressing yourself through new genres.

This course is designed for students who are completing the Notation in Science Communication. Some groups might focus on communicating the environmental or nutritional aspects of food to a public audience. Other groups might focus on other issues, such as gender equity, labor issues, or access for marginalized communities. Groups are welcome to work in the intersection between different aspects of food. All students will produce work that they can share in their ePortfolios.

Major Assignments

Proposal (3–5 pages)

Your group will begin by consulting with your community partner, aligning their needs and your interests. Then you will propose a quarter-long research project. You will determine the genre and format to best convey this material to your intended audience. You will deliver this proposal both in written and oral form.

Public-Facing Project

Based on your proposal, your group will create a public-facing project that benefits the community partner.  This could be a policy brief, op-ed, video, podcast, website content, social media campaign, etc., or some combination. The length will vary based on the genre and format. This will include a final presentation at a symposium with all the community partners (including a celebratory feast).

Vision Statement (3–5 pages)

This is a space to reflect on the relationship between the course theme and project and to draw connections to your education at Stanford more generally. You might write about what you learned, your own values, or aspirations for the future. Cultural rhetorics is a concept premised on the fact that people communicate in culturally specific ways, so you will find a way of conveying this reflection that feels meaningful for you. In place of a personal essay, you may opt to reflect in a creative format, such as a video, rap, poem, or comic (with a short written explanation).


Photo credit: Kelsey Kobik

Prerequisite: WR-1 requirement or the permission of instructor

Grade Option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Course Feature: Science Communication Track. WAY SI

This Course does not fulfill the WR-1 or WR-2 Requirement