Exploring Sustainability Through Lens of Food Justice and Food Equity in the Food Sustainability Teach-Out

Teach-Out also explores how changing food habits and sustainable production could reduce impact on climate change

Sean Corp, Content Strategist

The Sustainable Food Teach-Out explores the complexities of our food system, and what it means to grow food sustainably and equitably. The Teach-Out first launched in April 2019 and has been updated to include new discussions on food access and food justice.

Included in the Teach-Out are discussions with T.C. Collins of Willow Run Acres in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which teaches the community about modern farming practices. Collins, a volunteer with Michigan 4-H, also has an Underground Railroad garden, which allows youth to learn about the food grown along the Underground Railroad and also learn about the achievements in agriculture from Black historical figures.

Also featured in the Teach-Out is We the People Opportunity Farm, a community farm program for formerly incarcerated individuals.

“We help people who were formerly incarcerated learn about community engagement in farming, and the healing and nurturing from seed to harvest,” said Keesa V. Johnson, who guides learners through the new material and interviews farmers. Johnson is also the food and farm instructor at We the People Opportunity Farm.

In the Teach-Out, Johnson looks at the relationship between food justice and sustainability.

“Can we work to build a sustainable ecosystem where communities that have been taken advantage of … are able to reimagine, redesign and recapture what food means from an indigenous and African perspective,” Johnson asks.

Also featured is Mike Vestegaard of Vestegaard Farms in Ann Arbor. Vestegaard grew up on a dairy farm in Denmark and said he always had a dream of running his own farm someday. After coming to the U.S. in 1992 he worked in construction until he was finally able to open his own sustainable farm 12 years ago.

“It has been a lifelong dream of mine to start a farm up and produce a product that is sustainable but also produced with animals in mind,” said Vestegaard, who partners with Willow Run Acres on community farm education programs.

The rest of the Teach-Out explores key issues of sustainability, especially as a way to combat climate change. It breaks down human behavior in three parts through the lens of sustainability and its challenges: 1) what we choose to eat, 2) where we source our food from, and 3) reducing food-related waste.

The Teach-Out is free to enroll in, and will be available through the end of August. Participants watch video modules to learn about issues of sustainability, answer discussion prompts and can submit questions to experts who participated in the Teach-Out.

The original Teach-Out was inspired by the Act on Climate: Steps to Individual, Community and Political Action led by Michaela Zint, an Arthur F Thurnau professor and Zint, professor of environment and sustainability, School of Environment and Sustainability; professor of environment, LSA and SEAS; and professor of education, School of Education.

Teach-Outs are free and open online learning experiences designed to connect diverse experts with engaged citizens around timely social issues.

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