What can you do as a Sustainability fellow?

April 9, 2015  |  The Experience, Marina Stuart '16

Working in the Office of Sustainability is different than working in any other office or department or center on campus. While there is academic credit given, it is not all about academics. It is about skill development and hands-on praxis with regard to real challenges facing our community. In addition to this, the Office has connections to the wider New London community and a commitment to working with them; as well as working critically to create an open dialogue and a space that fosters inclusion and systems makes us different.

As a content developer and editor of the Office of Sustainability, I have learned a huge amount about working with others and developing effective communication strategies for an organization. With my position, I created a system and schedule for when blog posts are written, I have had to organize my time to ensure that I edit and organize blogs in a timely manner, and I have learned how to use a new computer software program in order to successfully post the blogs. All of these skills were ones I have highlighted in my resume and I have described in detail to potential employers. Only at the office did I have the opportunity to learn these skills and hands on experience using them.

Here are some experiences from other students that have worked and collaborated with the Office of Sustainability:

Julia Goldman ‘15: Through my position as Senior Fellow for the New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC), where I manage a team of six student fellows working on various community projects, I experience and interact with the local food system, examining the limitations and potential for growth. I have overseen projects including a double your dollars program for SNAP/WIC at farmers markets, a pilot program for farm to school education for preschoolers, a grow-a-row program with fresh produce to be donated to a local food center, and a food hub feasibility study, funded by a USDA grant. I make sure that each of the fellows are making progress in their area and help to connect them with community partners. This experience has taught me about the political framework which community projects operate and has familiarized me with a wide array of food related government programs and policies.

Soo Cho ‘17: I would say that the most important skill that I have learned while working with the Office of Sustainability, as a Senior Fellow for the Residential Fellows as well as the Children's Center's Garden Fellow, would be how to work with different personalities. People who work in the office come from all backgrounds and fields of study, so working with such a diverse group of students has given me the opportunity to develop a new kind of attentiveness.

Taryn Kitchen ’16: My work in the Office of Sustainability has helped me develop many professional skills: emailing, phone etiquette, website design, political prowess, time management, meeting planning, and so much more, while constantly thinking about how to thoughtfully collaborate with community organizations.

Marina Milan ’17: During my two years in working with the Office of Sustainability, I have learned a great deal about professional communication. I have honed my email writing skills and have learned how to work with other members of our college community in a mutually respectful and beneficial way. I have also learned to write complete yet concise proposals to target certain audiences and achieve my goals.

Check out the list of available positions here: http://www.conncoll.edu/sustainability/student-sustainability-programs/sustainability-fellows-program-/
Let us know what position you are interested in and send your resume and cover letter or questions to sustainability@conncoll.edu.

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Tags:  |  Sust Blog, Sprout Garden  |  Sust Blog, Sustainability

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Affordability and Access at New London Farmer's Markets

March 19, 2015

As the Affordability and Access Fellow for the New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC), it is my job to coordinate projects that combine both environmentally friendly initiatives with economically friendly policies, making fresh produce available at affordable prices to food insecure families. Currently I am working on developing a double value coupon program (DVCP) at several farmers markets in the county. Farmers markets are great places to get fresh, healthy produce while supporting local organic farmers, but we all know how expensive their fruits and veggies can be compared to supermarket prices. The DVCP is an effort to make this produce more affordable and available to individuals and families that receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

First piloted by the Connecticut-based company Wholesome Wave in 2008, the double value coupon program doubles the purchasing power of SNAP users by providing funds to match any purchase made by a SNAP user at a farmers market. In other words, if a person buys $10 worth of produce on their SNAP card, the DVCP will give them another $10 worth of fruits or veggies. The funds to back this type of program are usually provided by an outside source, like Wholesome Wave or the NLCFPC, and then donated to participating markets. The funds will then be used to reimburse market vendors from whom DVCP purchases are made.

Our ultimate goal is to make farmers markets in New London County more equitable places by making the produce more affordable for food insecure individuals and families. In doing so, we also promote sustainable practices (buying fresh produce from local farmers rather than packaged and processed food from large supermarkets) across a broader range of socio-economic classes. The future of sustainable practices relies on everyone’s participation!

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Nutrition course at the connecticut college's children's program

March 19, 2015  |  Sust Blog, Paige Ziplow '15

This past summer, I interned with Wellness in the Schools (WITS), an organization that provides health and wellness programming in high-poverty New York public schools. After my summer with WITS, I was inspired to further research the benefits of early childhood nutrition education, which is how I became the Nutrition Education Fellow for the New London County Food Policy Council.

As part my senior integrative project for the Holleran Center, I will be piloting a nutrition education course at Connecticut College's Children's Program, which is located across Route 32 on Nameaug Avenue. Modeled after UConn's Husky Reads program, the main objectives of our Camel Sprouts program curriculum are:

- Provide basic nutrition education and healthy opportunities for preschoolers

- Improve willingness to try and recognize various foods

- Build a foundation for lifelong good health and well-being

- Motivate parents and caregivers to reinforce healthy behaviors

If you are interested in volunteering, please feel free to contact me! My email address is pziplow@conncoll.edu. We hope that our pilot program will become a permanent part of the Children's Program and other preschools within the greater New London County.

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Working in the Lending Library

March 7, 2015  |  Sust Blog, Alicia Perez '17

The Lending Library started with the purpose to bring new life to used books. Students were giving away books that future students were going to need. The Office of Sustainability saw this as an opportunity. We started collecting books at the end of each academic year and making them available to the whole campus community at the start of the following year for free. This way, students can save money by not purchasing expensive books and the books are not thrown away after only being used by one person.

The Lending Library’s system is simple: once a student checks out a book, it is theirs until the end of the semester. There is no limit to the number of books that a single student can check out; however, it is a library, so students have to return the books at the end of each semester to help the program continue.

We are now working to make the Lending Library both easier to use and more efficient. The first step is reorganizing the books and creating a cataloguing system that makes them easy to track. We are also starting a new system for checking out and checking in books so that the Lending Library is open and available for as many students as possible. In the future, we are looking to know what books people need the most and cater to those needs.

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The Food Hub Project

March 7, 2015  |  Sust Blog, Brent Lo '16  |  Sust Blog, Julia Goldman '15  |  Sust Blog, Julia Goldman '15

As a member of the New London County Food Policy Council Food Hub Project, we are currently partnered with the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and New Venture Advisors in conducting a food hub feasibility study for New London County. The Council is a collaboration of food growers, local institutions and organizations, and strives to ensure that affordable and nutritious food is available to every resident of southeastern Connecticut. One effective way that has been replicated in other regions around the country is the creation of food hubs.

Food hubs are organizations that aggregate, market, and distribute the products of local and regional producers, with the end goal of strengthening the local food economy. Buyers might include restaurants, schools and grocery stores, and chefs, while suppliers would mainly rely on local farmers and specialty producers. Our consultants, New Venture Advisors, have been hired onto this project with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as part of a federal initiative aimed at improving local food system stability.

However, in order to implement a food hub, we are conducting a feasibility study, which entails a large scale cost-benefit analysis, a local production analysis and a local demand/consumption analysis. We are currently beginning the data collection process that will allow us to complete these three important analyses. To achieve this study we are collaborating with New Venture Advisors, a consultant group with expertise in food systems! To start the study we had a kick off event. The event took place at the Charter Oak Credit Union Headquarters in Waterford on Thursday, February 26, at 8:30 AM. There was a portion that was a presentation from the consultants and the leaders of the study, and we then broke up into three tables, having conversations about the food possibility of a food hub. We had over 50 community members from all across the county representing the sectors that will collectively make this study a success: growers, buyers, government, hospitals, non-profits, and K-12 and higher education. We were incredibly pleased to see the wide variety of community organizations represented at the kick-off event because this effort belongs to everyone in New London County and its ultimate success will depend on our commitment to open and dynamic collaboration.

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Policy work for the New London County Food Policy Council

February 15, 2015  |  Sust Blog, Eleanor Hardy '15

When I explain to most people that I do policy work for The Office of Sustainability, they look puzzled. I imagine this is because their first thoughts are somewhere along the lines of “how is policy environmental?” Or for those with a greater understanding of the definition of sustainability, "what does policy contribute to the spheres of holistic sustainability?” To be perfectly honest, I had similar thoughts, and only recently have I really begun to understand the relationship between policy and sustainability, and how my work with the New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC) has had widespread, and more importantly, lasting impact.

Doing policy work involves many things, first, getting to know politicians and forming relationships and researching what currently policies are in place. Next comes critically examining if current policies are effective and developing policy recommendations, in addition to extensive amounts of research into other policy councils and seeing what has been successful.

In working with the NLCFPC, there are many facets to food policy, from affordability and accessibility, to education and agriculture. While these different working groups develop ideas in order to make the work more sustainable while also benefitting the most people, the policy-working group is there to ensure that these changes are sustained as policies are what people are required to follow. If policy work were not present, then these new and creative ideas would not be everlasting and therefore not sustainable.

Because policy and the council itself deal with many different facets of food policy, the work we do is widespread. Our first job is to compile a list of policy priorities. By working with each working group I have been able to narrow down a specific policy to examine and critique what currently exists, while also working to develop policy recommendations and other improvements that can make a policy more sustainable. For example, Connecticut is part of the $10.10 minimum wage increase. While people initially think that an increase in minimum wage is a great thing, it's important to examine the whole picture. The increase means more money for people, especially those currently living in poverty, but it may also mean that they no longer qualify for SNAP or WIC benefits due to the increase in their salary. Policies such as these are important to consider, especially as they also overlap with affordability and accessibility of foods.

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A garden for the children

February 15, 2015  |  Sust Blog, Rebecca Brill Weitz '18  |  Sust Blog, Soo Cho '17

Our project is working to renovate the garden that belongs to the Connecticut College Children’s Program at 75 Nameaug Avenue. They have a small garden next to the school that the Office of Sustainability is working to bring new life into, in the form of vegetables for them to eat.

When we first started working, the ground was barely visible, the weeds and plants had gotten to the height of an adult! In other words, it was a mess and hardly what anyone would call a "garden". The first step was the clean it up. In two weekends and with the help of a couple of helping hands, we were able to clear the entire garden so the walkways were visible. We were now able to see the outline of the entire garden. After shoveling dirt out of the walkways in one workday, we were able to lay gravel stones everywhere, with the help of the amazing Jim Luce from Facilities, of course.

Now, we are actively looking/applying for grants so that we can fund the growth of the garden, like planting and maintenance. We are also collaborating with one of UConn's program called "Husky Reads." Their goal is to provide basic nutrition information and healthy food tasting to young children. Paige Ziplow, a Senior at Conn, is piloting a similar program at the Children's Program! Through this collaboration, we hope to work more closely with the children to integrate a solid garden curriculum into their education program.

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Mystery Solved: The (not-so-secret) Food Systems Sustainability Fellows Projects

November 13, 2014  |  Sust Blog, Julia Goldman '15  |  Sust Blog, Julia Goldman '15

This year, the Connecticut College Office of Sustainability has partnered with the New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC), hiring student fellows to help implement the plans of the Council. NLCFPC works to reduce food insecurity, improve diet-related health, and expand the viability of local agriculture throughout New London county. There are fellows working in five different areas to accomplish these goals. Each fellow works with community partners, allowing the fellows to make real connections with the community at large and to make lasting impacts.

The Emergency and Supplemental Food Systems Fellow, Ariana Pazmino ’18, and the Food Insecurity Fellow, Emma Galante ’15, work together to increase access to sustainable food in the county. Ariana collaborates with the Gemma E. Moran Food Center and Emma focuses on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)/WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) benefits. The Nutrition Education Fellow, Paige Ziplow ’15, meets with the Farm to School coordinator in the county to develop high school level workshops for students on sustainable food as well as curriculum for preschoolers and their parents and teachers at the Connecticut College Children’s Program in coordination with the Holleran Center. Eleanor Hardy ’15, the Policy Fellow, concentrates on implementing policy changes that affect the food system within the county and its residents. The final area of focus is on a food hub. The Council received a grant from the USDA to conduct a food hub feasibility study in the county, so the Food Hub Fellows, Wesley Conner ’17 and Brent Lo ’16, are searching for a consultant group to hire in order to complete that study.

As the Senior Fellow on the project, I oversee all of the work of the fellows, in collaboration with Josh Stoffel, Sustainability Officer at the College. Everyone is extremely excited about the impact this project can have on the county as well as the opportunities for community engagement! 

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The Return of the Frost

November 13, 2014  |  Sust Blog, Christine Roundtree '15

The Sprout Garden epitomizes time’s evanescence. As I walked in the garden at the end of summer, I worried about how weeds would eventually overtake the ripe vegetables and fruits. Fortunately, however, the student gardeners that arrived in the fall dispelled my fears that the summer’s work would go to waste.

When I met the other students, I knew our teamwork would make our garden the best it has ever been. We planned out the fall crop sections during our weekly meetings and divided the garden in order to manage each portion. Our planning has helped us to prioritize our tasks and remain organized.

We let the sunflowers and last three basil plants seed in the hopes that birds would peck away the pests and that individuals would enjoy the sunflower seeds and the sight of beautiful Velvet Queen sunflowers in the future. We also have covered our hoop house to allow us to grow greens and roots all winter long. Our effort to cover the hoop house went more smoothly than ever before, with more than 10 student and staff volunteers showing up to help. We owe a special thanks to the four Library staff that came up to help with this effort!

This fall, we had the honor to meet with one of the major donors who has supported the expansion and ongoing success of the Sprout Garden. We gave her a grand tour of the garden. She was impressed with the amount of hard work we had contributed to the garden and wished us luck for the winter season. Sure enough, it has been a terrific semester with the help of such caring and invested student gardeners. 

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Children to Get Groovy in the Garden

October 9, 2014  |  Sust Blog, Rebecca Brill Weitz '18  |  Sust Blog, Soo Cho '17

Did you know that Connecticut College has its own Children’s Program? It is located at Holmes Hall, 75 Nameaug Avenue (right down the road from the River Ridge Apartments). With about 90 students, the Children’s Program is an early childhood preschool program for young children of all backgrounds. The Program’s curriculum is based on the premise that play enables children to interact and learn from their environment. The children have enjoyed and learned from their interactions with the Children’s Program garden.

This year, the Office of Sustainability is collaborating with the Children’s Program to completely renovate the garden! We, Rebecca Brill Weitz and Soo Cho, are the Office of Sustainability fellows working on the many phases of this exciting project.

With the frost approaching, Mother Nature has set us an approaching deadline for getting work in the garden done this fall. We began our project by weeding, a hefty task given the garden’s location on prime sunny real estate. Fortunately, after just two days of weeding, we could see the layout of the garden. We now must decide how much of the current infrastructure to keep. Since the garden lies on a slope, we plan add crushed stone to all pathways in an effort to support rainwater to naturally filter into the ground.

Once we finalize the layout of the garden, we will decide on what to plant and where each plant will be placed. We will first choose the locations of the flower bulbs and garlic. The rest can be decided over a good cup of hot cocoa after the snow comes. After the bulbs are in the ground, we will mulch the garden and then let it sleep under the soft blanket of snow.

Long-term goals include building a curriculum for the students that incorporates the garden into their daily activities, mapping out the garden’s produce, and writing grant proposals. We want this garden to not only look awesome, but to be a place where the children come together to play and to grow. Keep an eye out for more updates about this amazing project!

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