Archive for November 21st, 2013

November 21, 2013

From the Ground Up: Understanding Our Complex Food Systems

by Melissa Harding


As part of the Museums Connect program, made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums, Phipps is partnering with the Gidan Makama Museums in Kano, Nigeria to provide an immersive experience for 15 local high school students in each city. Participating students will learn about nutrition, cooking and cultural food traditions by following local food from farm to table and will be communicating with students at their partner institutions. This project will last from September to June, resulting in the creation of a community cookbook that will be designed and created by participating students. Students will also meet each month for a Saturday workshop involving activities designed to get them thinking critically about their food system and food culture. Calling themselves the Global Chefs, this group of students is excited to learn more about what food means in their lives.

This month, a team of helpers from all over the community joined our Global Chefs in the kitchen to make their first full meal as a group. Nancy Hanst of Slow Food Pittsburgh, local chefs Rhonda Schuldt and Jean Daniels, and Chatham Food Studies student Amber Webb and B. Thorp all helped our students to learn knife skills, how to carve a chicken and more. Students made a meal of enchiladas, both vegetarian and chicken, and baked apples. For many of the students, it was their first time eating some of these foods. Everyone enjoyed eating the meal together, sharing in the group’s collective efforts.


Students also learned just how complex the American food system truly is. They examined what a food system is, the differences between localized and conventional food systems, and how food systems looks different around the world. Students also worked on an activity comparing how foods market themselves versus the reality of their production and content, as well as how wealth is distributed along the food system. Finally, they looked at pictures sent by their Nigerian counterparts and examined how their experienced with food are similar and different to their own.

Additionally, students shared their holiday recipes from the previous month’s assignment. The recipes that they brought were varied by holiday and culture; examples include spiced yams, strawberry pretzel salad, coconut shrimp soup, sausage brochettes, baked moi moi and sweet potato pie. Students also chose a theme for their next recipe assignment; they are tasked with interviewing an elder to get a traditional recipe from their family or community.

To see more images from the workshop, check out the slideshow below!

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The above photos were taken by Lisa Xu and program participants.


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