In the newly created role of manager of the university’s Sustainable Food Program, Emily Canosa is a “connector,” bringing students together with resources and opportunities about sustainable food.
The idea of the UMFSP was launched in 2012, as a way to coordinate the many groups working on different aspects of the same issue. The collective brings together organizations such as Friends of the Campus Farm, UMBees and the Ann Arbor Student Food Co-op.
“I link students up with places where they can get what they need,” Canosa says. “That could be with a class on campus, a student club, or with a certain workshop or an event going on.”
She will also make connections to the community, working with student groups to organize speakers, workshops and panels.
Through collaborations, individual initiatives can become more valuable and effective. A current student project involves taking food waste from the dining halls and converting it into compost.
While the students of the UMSFP ultimately lead and implement projects themselves, their busy schedules have sometimes been an obstacle to getting plans off the ground. The UMSFP manager will play a large role in taking on some of this organizational load. At the same time, any student curious about where to start in sustainable food can consult with Canosa.
“They can talk to me about what a career in sustainable food might look like, or what internships or jobs are available,” she notes. “Or they can mention a project and I might say, ‘Oh, so and so is already working on that, and you could collaborate.'”
Championed by students
The need for the UMSFP manager position was first identified by students. In the past, one big challenge had been the loss of knowledge, as student leaders graduate every year. The students of the UMSFP saw the new position as critical to ensuring continuity, with part of the charge dedicated to helping leadership teams transfer knowledge to the next generation.
The position is a collaboration between Student Life, the Graham Sustainability Institute, and Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, all of which contribute to the position’s funding. Additional funding also comes from a Transforming Learning for a Third Century grant. It was the students’ idea that the position report up through Student Life because they thought it was important for the manager’s work to connect to food on campus.
Closing the loop
One big goal for Canosa is supporting the students in getting Good Agricultural Practices certification for the Campus Farm, a necessary step to getting the food grown on the farm into the dining halls to be served. The composting initiative is another exciting piece of the same sustainable cycle.
“If we can take food waste from the dining halls and use it to grow new food on the farm — which in turn could be served in the halls — then we would really be closing the loop,” she says.
While sustainability is finding a place at every level of education, Emily sees something special about doing the work here at Michigan: “What I love about working with college students is that they are change agents. They can take on initiatives and change things, and you can see real things happening.”