Kaitlin Schroeder and Matthew Rusk were paired with FEED Collaborative, a Stanford-based organization that seeks to solve “systemic problems in the food system.” Through the FEED Collaborative, Kaitlin and Matt were joined with ReFed, an organization concerned with food waste. For the project, Kaitlin and Matt uncovered what food waste projects were currently in process at Stanford, then brainstormed ways to capture the process in order to dispel myths about donating uneaten food and to ultimately disseminate that message across other university campuses.
To do so, Kaitlin and Matt conducted interviews with Stanford chefs, admins in Stanford’s Residential and Dining program, and Stanford students who currently connect Stanford dining halls to local non-profits and facilitate the donation process. The end result is a compelling short video that will be disseminated across ReFed’s social media sites, and an op-ed written for university newspapers across the country. Finally, they composed a policy memo geared towards university administrators, compelling them to adapt a food donation process on their campuses.
“Praxis-based change can be extraordinary. I will never forget the “motto” of my Catholic elementary school, “Actions, not words.” I feel that through this class, I had the chance to fully realize the meaning of this statement, as well as re-examine how it applies to me and defines my role in the surrounding community. I had the amazing opportunity to step outside the classroom and take action for an issue of personal interest and utmost importance.” – Kaitlin Schroeder
“While I had never heard some of the concepts we covered explicitly stated or defined, I had come across the ideas before. Ideas like phronesis, or that people with practical experience possess technical wisdom I do not is something I have been confronted with during my time in the professional world, as well as my personal life. Praxis, the idea we learn from doing, is something that I could have testified to before this class, given the amount that I improved at my job over the last 2 summers. However, I think that putting these ideas in explicit terms is still helpful to me, and really thinking about how we engage with the outside word as students was thought-provoking for me, especially as I prepare to transition into my professional life.” – Matt Rusk
Below you will find the video Kaitlin and Matt created, followed by their op-ed, then their policy memo. Their final presentation to the community partner can be found towards the end. Each of these documents went through multiple revisions, with careful consideration paid to media, mode, audience, purpose. Their reflections in italics are interspersed throughout their public documents.
“Cushman’s paper, “The rhetorician as an agent of social change”, deeply interested me, predominantly because it introduced and explained foundational aspects of service learning, a concept then unfamiliar to me. When the term “reciprocity” was mentioned in a case study on Bentley University’s service learning course, I took note of this concept and jotted down some ideas in my notebook, hoping to address reciprocity at some point over the course of my project. Little did I know that reciprocity itself would serve as a key defining feature of both my project and the course as a whole. Reciprocity stands at the core of everything we did in this course, and whether we realized it or not, all actions made by both the students and the community partners affected the other in some way. In fact, the skills and experiences I gained through this work seem to even surpass the products/labor we ultimately provided for the FEED Collaborative.” – Kaitlin Schroeder
Op-ed for university newspapers
“In the last few weeks we decided to add an op-ed to our package, meant to target students of the university. This actually made a lot of sense for our project when considering what we had been told…about dining services relationships with students. By reaching students we hope to also generate upward pressure on the dining service, and encourage them to start a donation program to make their students happy, not to mention because it is the right thing to do. As an aside, I am actually surprised Stanford does not seek greater publicity for its prepared food donation program as it would certainly generate positive public relations, both with those outside the school as well as among students. I can certainly say that I think more favorably about R&DE now that I know that they are making these efforts to reduce food waste and help those in need.” – Matt Rusk
Policy memo for university administrators:
“The deliberate influence of praxis was most evident in our policy memo, which provides university dining directors with concrete reasons and information for starting a food donation program. Though presented more subtly, we used similar persuasive techniques in our video for dining employees. We encourage the employees to use praxis themselves, and without ever using the term praxis or explaining its definition, we motivate them to translate theory into action. We accomplish this by first providing an explanation of the problem at hand—hard facts, statistics, and relevant information. Following this introductory piece, we show them several cases of successful programs and invite them to get involved themselves—we focus on action verbs like “encourage your university,” “establish a program,” and “lead the revolution.” We inform them of the “theory” side and show them how they could use this knowledge to change their “practices”, so that they can make actionable change in their universities and beyond. “ – Kaitlin Schroeder
Final presentation to community partner slide deck:
“The unique setup of this course allowed for active engagement in the local food industry and its passionately involved community members. Not only did I gain greater awareness and develop important life skills through my own project, but I also learned an incredible amount from my classmates. Whether we were discussing food stamp promotion, urban gardening initiatives, or food donation programming, I received many insights into the issues and initiatives themselves as well as the inner workings of my classmates’ minds, particularly through the ways they chose to tackle their assignments. This class taught me how to think critically, reflect thoroughly, and address key issues from all angles.” -Kaitlin Schroeder
“Both the reading and discussion on who service learning really serves made me think hard about what we were doing, and the effect of service work in general. By simply making these artifacts, delivering them, and moving on, was I really making a difference? I have heard talks before about why when Americans take service trips to other countries to do good works, it essentially has no impact. The reasoning goes along the lines of “if you go to a poor country, build some houses, and leave, you haven’t fixed the problems that put those people there in the first place”. And it’s true, in that scenario one hasn’t fixed any systemic problems, or really made any sustainable change. But at the same time, doesn’t it make a difference to those people? Would the materials we produced help someone? It’s something I am still grappling with. I think that we should not discount contributions simply because they help the symptoms of a problem, in our case giving food to people who could not otherwise afford it. It still makes a difference for someone, even if it doesn’t for everyone. We should acknowledge this and try to push for systemic change, but still help those in need more immediately.” – Matt Rusk