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Drew University Holds Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice

The third annual event highlighted community partnerships to promote food justice

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Students plant vegetable seeds.

April 2024 – Drew University joined tens of thousands of universities, colleges, K-12 schools, and faith communities to take part in the third annual Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice. The initiative aims to create global climate and justice dialogues.

Through presentations and interactive participation from the Drew community and beyond, the University-wide event encouraged participants to plan to cultivate solutions surrounding environmental and food justice.

The event was moderated by Elisabeth Sauerman C’24, Action Scholar and member of the Environmental Sustainability Council. Her presentation explored the importance of engaging with local food pathways in New Jersey, such as farms, soup kitchens, and food pantries. The USDA estimates that in 2020, approximately 600,000 New Jersey residents were food insecure. “Engaging with local food pathways builds stronger communities,” she said.

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Elisabeth Sauerman C'24

Christdia Mensa C’26 shared her research on dangers of fast and processed food diets in the U.S. during her presentation titled “Why America is Riddled in Disease.” Gad Maiga T’25 encouraged students to join TERRA, a student-run organization that provides opportunities for education and advocacy regarding ecological issues. Maiga is also the garden steward for the Drew Theological School Community Garden. Located on Drew’s campus, the garden provides an outside space dedicated to gardening and developing a connection to the earth. Students learn eco-theology, environmental justice, and practice the farm-to-table process. 

Associate Teaching Professor in Religious Studies Jonathan Golden performed an original musical performance, accompanied by his children on back-up instruments.

Summer Harrison, associate professor of English & environmental studies, shared her expertise on food justice and sobering statistics on food insecurity, which affects one in eight individuals in the U.S. Nearly one billion people globally are projected to experience hunger and malnutrition next year, and over three billion people cannot afford healthy food. “The problem is that our system of production and distribution is discriminatory and waste more than one third of all food that is produced,” she said. “While justice and sustainability may often be seen as separate movements or problems, we actually can’t have one without the other.”

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Professor Jonathan Golden and family perform an original musical performance.

Assistant Professor of Religion and Society Elaine Noguiera-Godsey provided a thought-provoking talk on “Women’s Participation in Food Justice, Developing Transnational Solidarity. “If we start to think about food production and reflect on where the food we eat comes from, we become more aware of the impact of our lifestyle—of what we eat in connection with climate change,” she said. She asked the audience to reflect on their meals and attempt to determine how the food arrives at their table. “One way to contribute to climate change is to change your behavior around food. Working in food justice is a moral responsibility.”

The event featured presentations from representatives from local food pathway providers, including GRACE, a food pantry and community resource provider serving Summit, New Jersey; Table of Hope, a food waste and food rescue operation serving Morris County, New jersey; and Grow it Green, promoting community health through urban agriculture, discovery-based learning and equitable food access to the greater Morristown, New Jersey, area.

Global partners Passmore Mudhanganyi and the Rev. Samuel Karanji educated the audience on food and environmental justice threats in Sub-Saharan Africa and Nairobi, Kenya due to limited economic opportunities as a direct result of social and political marginalization. 

At the close of the presentations, students were invited to plant vegetable seeds with Laurel Kearns, professor of ecology, religion, & society, while Mecca Maydun, faculty director of civically engaged teaching & learning, provided a space for students to reflect on the event.

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