NoCo Food Justice: Positive Change Through Collaborative Science Communication

A collaboration between the Center for Environmental Justice and the Center for Science Communication for CSU’s Earth Month

By Emily Montgomery and Field Peterson

Access to healthy, affordable, and culturally desirable foods is more of a luxury than many realize. The systems that guide transportation do not always result in equal distribution. Could local journalism students be the catalyst for unveiling these inequalities and educating the community?

NoCo Food Justice is a toolkit that addresses some of the barriers and challenges to health food systems in northern Colorado. As a unique aspect, it is created for university students to use, offering practical information. It will be published in the coming weeks, aligned with other initiatives in honor of CSU’s Earth Month.

Professor Jamie Folsom, a faculty member in the Department of Journalism and Media Communication and the Center for Science Communication at Colorado State University, is integrating the toolkit into her course JTC 319, Science and Environmental Communication. The project marks an initial, yet essential, collaboration between the Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) and the Center for Science Communication (CSC), allowing for students to have real-world experience addressing critical issues in their community.

The course has been redesigned to be project-based, focusing on advocacy and the process of reporting science and environmental information to audiences outside academia, with the collaboration giving students the opportunity to produce media pieces for the toolkit. The work seeks to address resources that promote justice, which is marked by creating equal and fair access to those needs, especially for students at CSU. 

Human Dimensions of Natural Resources student Alisha Butki is guiding the environmental aspect of the project for her honors thesis work. Working alongside Mindy Hill, CEJ Program Manager, Butki took inspiration from other CSU programs aimed at creating food equality. Through an exploration of existing resources, toolkits and organizations, the two decided to address the topic of food justice by including journalism students in the process of collecting resources for a comprehensive, locally-focused toolkit.

JTC319 students with the Center for Environmental Justice project team members (CEJ)

Aside from the students in the course working on this project, two interns, Allie Lawler and Curtis Kline, have been hired to aid in the research process through teaching assistant roles for the JTC 319 course and production aspects of the project, including the website development and curating student work to be published on the site.

The toolkit will be featured on the CEJ website under a dedicated page where students can find information about environmental justice– with Food Justice being the first edition. The project is funded by a grant from the President’s Office which is being used to support the research initiatives.

One of the projects, Cooperation, features a podcast.

The NoCo Food Justice pages will feature three sections: the first will highlight the topic of food justice, the second will highlight programs, courses, and projects that CSU offers, and the third will be a resource for students to find job or volunteer opportunities and internships. The project is set to launch publicly on April 23rd in conjunction with Fort Collins’ Earth Day.

The Center for Science Communication will be releasing updates as the project develops through the ongoing collaboration with the Center for Environmental Justice.

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