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Fixing the chain before it breaks

Patricia Allen to lead new food systems program at Marylhurst


by: TIDINGS PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - A background as an educator and writer about the American food system has prepared Patricia Allen for her new position at Marylhurst University.Patricia Allen is the right person at the right place at certainly the right time to direct the new Food Systems & Society Department at Marylhurst University.

The production of food has entranced Allen ever since she was a girl visiting her grandmother’s farm and she saw just how hard her grandmother had to work to survive. Allen has gone on to achieve a groundbreaking career as an educator and an author in the field of examining the American food system, identifying the problems and discovering ways to sustain the production of food — and the people who produce it.

She left the University of Santa Cruz in California for Marylhurst to do something completely different. Allen said she will have a unique opportunity to help fix the system.

“This is exactly what I always wanted to do,” Allen said. “Applying academic theory to real problems in a real time way that is not abstract. We will blend theory and practice. Our core mission will be social justice.”

Marylhurst now has just the right person to lead the new program.

“We talked to lots of good people,” said Paul Ventura, chairman of Marylhurst’s Department of Sustainable Business. “We hired a great person.”

It will take a great person to take on a huge problem. Ventura has a stack of disturbing statistics.

  • Forty percent of agriculture production is wasted.

  • One in six Americans is hungry.

  • Agriculture uses 80 percent of the water, 50 percent of the land and 10 percent of the energy.

    “These are not sustainable numbers,” Ventura said.

    “Now is the time for change on the ground,” Allen said.

    The best thing about Allen’s program is that it will deal with the entire spectrum of food production, including health, business and equity issues.

    “All of our students will be doing projects involving theory, evaluation and coming up with new ideas. People will select their own project so they can work in the area they’re most interested in,” Allen said.

    “In this program we’ll get our students to be pioneers,” Ventura said.

    Allen expects her hardy pioneers to band together and form a group that will last beyond attaining their master’s degrees at Marylhurst and “really develop a community and a practice.”

    When the new department begins in September 2013, there will be no more than 30 students at a time, which will allow for intense and personal instruction.

    Allen and Ventura noted that there is no shortage of intelligent, dedicated people who want to do something about the production of food. With the Food Systems & Society Department at Marylhurst, they will be better prepared to do this than ever before. The new program is attracting great interest, and many potential applicants already have much experience in the food industry.

    “This is the first program of its kind,” Allen said.

    For more about Marylhurst’s Food Systems & Society Department, go to marylhurst.edu.



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