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Unearthing Deeper Food Issues

Excerpt from an article by Michael Russell in The Oregonian, December 23, 2012.

As a girl, Patricia Allen spent summers working on her grandmother's Fremont, Calif., farm, earning pocket money to pay for school clothes. Even then, the Bay Area city was transforming into a San Francisco suburb, and megafarms were encroaching in California's central valley.

"It would break my heart to see how hard she'd work to not get very far," says Allen. "I really developed a sense that while there are many important economic issues, it was the people issues that were not being addressed."

Allen kept those lessons close as she pursued degrees in international agricultural development and sociology. She wrote her dissertation on alternative food systems and has since authored papers focusing on the politics and hiring practices in U.S. food production.

In 2007, she became director of the respected Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Now, as the new chair of Marylhurst University's soon-to-launch Department of Food Systems & Society, she plans to focus on issues of race, class and gender as they relate to the things we eat.

Allen says the program will prepare students to be "change agents in the world of food systems."

Few metro areas can boast as close a connection to the food its residents eat as Portland, where many supermarkets label locally grown fruits and vegetables, farm-to-table restaurants are the rule, and working farms are a short field trip away. Allen thinks this could make Oregon the perfect lab for a program like Marylhurst's.

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