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Fellowship program helps students apply their skills to help feed the city

Urban Food_fmtThe Indy Food Fellows program allows students to enhance their résumés and get some practical experience in the environmental science field. It also provides them with an opportunity to play an integral role in improving the health of the Indianapolis food system. Made possible by a grant from the Eroymson Family Fund, Indy Food Fellows offers college students a yearlong fellowship. UIndy fellows this year are Allie Kast, an international relations major, and Lauren Joyal, an environmental science and sustainability major.

“The Indy Food Fellows is part of the new Indy Food Council, Allie says. “It has four aspects—ecology, nutrition, hunger, and community development.”

Providing students with the resources necessary to address these four areas are sponsor organizations that also work to address environmental issues. Lauren’s working with Big Car, a local arts organization; Allie is working with the Global Peace Initiative. UIndy prof Kevin McKelvey is the coordinator for the newly added environmental sustainability major, and he has contributed greatly to the development of the Indy Food Fellows program.

“I use my community contacts in Indianapolis to create course projects that will engage students in professional experiences outside the classroom and the university,” McKelvey says. “Our Indy food fellows will be working with and learning from professionals in urban agriculture and sustainability.”

‘The purpose of the Food Council is to teach the community about and expand Indianapolis’s food system’

It’s all about the transformations

Three years ago, McKelvey worked with Lauren’s sponsor, Big Car, to replace an old parking lot in order to make an abandoned tire shop environmentally friendly. They transformed it into the Service Center for Contemporary Culture and Community.

This is the center where Lauren will work for the duration of her fellowship, expanding the garden.

“I have to come up with ways to use the produce they have,” Lauren says, “as well as ways to involve Big Car in the community. Some of the produce goes to the local restaurants and some goes to people who visit or are in need. I’m hoping to expand the program. I’m wanting to grow more crops as well as involve more organizations to teach them about organic gardening or how to help support environmental health through interactive programs.”

Allie also aspires to using her experience in the program even after she has completed her Global Peace Initiative fellowship.

“I heard about the program through my advisor, who thought it would be a great opportunity for me because of my interest in sustainability,” she says. “Through this program, I hope to expand my knowledge and passion for sustainable living and be able to use what I learn in a future career.”

Help the community, find a career path

Allie hopes to work in international environmental policy after graduation and eventually lead a global environmental nonprofit. Lauren hopes that the program will help her to decide how to use her areas of study in her future career.

“I have a deep interest in anything that will help our environment, Lauren says. “This program is all about making the public aware of the struggles we face with our food systems and how to combat them. Food Fellows is my way of discovering what exactly I want to do with my degrees. [It] is a way for me to get some real-world experience while also doing good for my community. But, with a little luck, maybe I can find the perfect fit for myself in the field and meet some great people along the way.”

—Ariana Gainer ’14