Rachel Aronson, a UVM Anthropology major and Honors College student, spent this past summer doing fieldwork about the role of culturally appropriate food in a nonprofit in Massachusetts that works to prevent domestic and sexual violence. Having received a Summer Research Award from UVM’s Office of Undergraduate Research, Rachel had the opportunity to spend her whole summer in the field collecting data about this topic.
Many people, mostly women and children, come to the organization in need of emotional and physical support during times of crisis in their lives. Many of the women are food insecure, and some of them have run a long way from their homes and communities to seek shelter. Many of the organization’s staff are interested in the local food movement and work to promote healthy eating and nutrition among the program’s clients. During her time in the field, Rachel interviewed staff, clients, and volunteers about their impressions of the local food movement, nutrition, and food safety nets in the US and discussed ways that their cultural, physical, and emotional food needs were or were not addressed while in the program.In addition, she discussed the conflicts and opportunities created by the intense attachment that people have to culturally specific foods, and the way that these foods can create a sense of comfort and home in unfamiliar and dangerous situations.
Rachel is hard at work analyzing her data and plans to complete and defend her honor’s thesis this Spring. Rachel’s work represents the exciting opportunities that are available for students interested in applied fieldwork and we’re excited to see where her research takes her!