Chatham University

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Course spotlight: Food Access


Food Access (FST509), taught by Mim Seidel, MS, RD, LDN, has two components: a general exploration of the contexts in which hunger and food insecurity develop, and a directed exploration of food access in Pittsburgh. This course is enriched through interactions with many Pittsburgh-based anti-hunger organizations.

At the beginning of the semester, students tour the Food Bank, meet the people working there, and visit the Swissvale Community Garden, created by Master of Arts in Food Studies alumnus Leland Scales, ’16.

Community building is a core component, with emphasis on volunteering and developing skills related to task negotiation, network development, social interaction, and cultural acumen. Topics covered through reading and discussion include health consequences of poverty; poverty and policy; food deserts; the Farm Bill and Child Nutrition Re-Authorization; school meals; and global nutrition and food access.

If food is a basic human right, how do societies create universal access to food? What is the moral ethical basis for making citizens food secure in an age of global inequality?  To what extent does providing food access need to consider culturally appropriateness, nutrition, and sustainability, and justice? – syllabus for FST509

Students work in groups to create menus and shop (go to the grocery store and price the food) for six fictitious families according to the guidelines given by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


Food Studies Student Creates Community Garden


Leland Scales (MAFS, ’16)’s hometown of Swissvale, PA had fallen on hard times, and he wanted to give back to the community. Inspired when he began the Master of Arts in Food Studies at Chatham, Leland created the Swissvale Community Garden to both beautify a part of his community and to provide some much-needed healthy produce to those in the Swissvale area.

Funding his project through Indiegogo, Leland designed the Swissvale Community Garden as a community-based initiative that is managed and operated by volunteers of the community and overseen by Reach Up, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Swissvale. Gardeners grow various flowers, herbs, and vegetables with crops being donated to local food pantries, some given to volunteers, and the remaining items sold at a local farmers market.

Leland plans to grow the project each year, and to offer gardening workshops to teach children that with hard work and determination, even the smallest seed can grow into to something larger than life.

Located within Chatham’s Falk School of Sustainability & Environment, the Master of Arts in Food Studies emphasizes a holistic approach to food systems, from agriculture and food production to cuisines and consumption, providing intellectual and practical experience from field to table.