Coalition Building on Campus: a Madison and Milwaukee Food Systems Meetup

In the middle of the Sett at the Union South early on a Thursday evening, the Community and Regional Food Systems Project (CRFS) administrative intern, Morgan Menke, held a sign to direct “Food Systems Folks” to the patio where a slowly setting sun warmed the backs of attendees and hints of autumnal chill kept the pitchers of local beer cold until everyone arrived. CRFS and the Institute for Urban Agriculture and Nutrition (IUAN) invited campus food systems groups to a casual gathering “hosted by community organizations working in various aspects of food systems and food justice”. The meetup was the third in a monthly series begun to create networking opportunities for local individuals and organizations involved in food systems work, from farm to fork.

After a brief introduction from Greg Lawless, Director of the Agricultural Innovations Center at University of Wisconsin-Extension, attention turned to the attendees as individuals introduced themselves and their affiliated department or organization. Community members representing the Community Action Coalition, REAP Food Group, Second Harvest Foodbank, Public Health Madison & Dane County, Dane County University of Wisconsin-Extension and the Organic Processing Institute spoke about their work and visions for community food systems with special attention given to opportunities for collaboration with graduate students. Students and faculty from the departments of urban and regional planning and population health sciences, as well as UW-Extension, the UW Center for Cooperatives, UW Law School and the Kaufman Lab represented interdisciplinary campus food systems work.

Ginny Moore, a graduate student in the department of agriculture and applied economics and the leader of a budding organization to create coalition-building space for other UW-Madison graduate students involved in food systems work, also made a call for feedback regarding future opportunities for students to connect.

To stay in the loop regarding future meetups and opportunities to collaborate with other food systems folks, sign up for FoodLinkMilwaukee.

Written by: Oona Mackesey-Green