Food Justice Class Shines Light on Hunger, Nutrition

Community gardening, interviews and delivering nourishment to food deserts are all part of the curriculum.

(This article by Shirley Jinkins originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of “TCU Magazine.”)

Dave Aftandilian teaches a popular elective each spring. The 23 course slots fill up fast with students in a range of majors, and there is always a waiting list.

With a lengthy name in previous course catalogs, ANTH 30663 is now just called Food Justice. Aftandilian, associate professor of anthropology, designed the class for students to explore food needs and work on solutions to alleviate hunger on local and global scales.

Photo of student sorting food donations

TCU criminal justice major Rochelle Smith sorts donations while volunteering at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in March. (Photo by Leo Wesson)

Katherine “Katey” Rudd ’09 came to Texas from Connecticut in 2005. Her goal was to earn a degree in nutritional science, then work as a clinical dietitian. But her experience as the community garden program coordinator for the Tarrant Area Food Bank took her career in a different direction. “The genesis of my interest in this came from Dave’s Food Justice class,” she said. “It was very motivating for me. It changed my life.”

The course introduced Rudd to the gut-wrenching reality of “food insecurity,” a term used to describe people who are hungry and often don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Food insecurity is on the rise and affects adults and children in low-income working families, older people who find themselves without the money to get by after medical bills are paid, and middle-income workers who lose jobs or have expensive health crises.

Fort Worth-based Tarrant Area Food Bank, which services 270 community partner agencies — including dozens of food pantries — in 13 counties, has seen a steady increase in the need for food assistance in North Texas.

“It’s not necessarily always dramatic, but it trends upward over time,” said Micheline Hynes, nutrition services manager at the food bank. “One of those things that people don’t quite understand is the majority of food bank clients are working families, with one or more jobs per person, and they’re just having trouble making ends meet.”

Community gardens, mobile fresh grocers, even neighborhood vegetable carts can help alleviate hunger in urban and rural neighborhoods. But Aftandilian said it takes a village to help such projects take root and flourish.

Read more in “TCU Magazine.”