Skip to main content

Student links experience of food to sustainability research

May 04, 2010

It is something that at one time or another we all take for granted – the source of our food. We are so used to picking up anything we need at the supermarket, so we don’t question the source of our nourishment. Nowadays, rarely can we connect the food we eat with the place we live in.

This was an observation that Heidi TenPas made during her academic career at ASU, and while visiting the East African country of Uganda last spring.

"I became enthralled by issues of food justice, agroecology and sustainable food systems," TenPas said. "How could I not self-reflect on the problems facing our food system in America when all my food in Uganda was coming from subsistence farms and open-air markets?"

The oldest of four children and a native of Lawrence, Kan., TenPas is very familiar with America’s agricultural heartland.

As a global studies major with a concentration in violence, conflict and human rights, she has become interested in how issues of global justice and human rights intersect with everyday livelihood issues such as food supply, agriculture and socioeconomic well-being.

After visiting Uganda, she decided to learn ways in which she could make food accessible, yet sustainable.

"Last fall when I heard that ARAMARK was hiring a sustainability intern for the semester, I jumped at the chance to get involved with food sustainability right here at ASU," TenPas said. "My job has been the most phenomenal experience."

Working under Engrained Sustainability Manager Katrina Shum, she learned how to integrate principles of environmental stewardship (energy and water conservation, waste reduction, food sustainability and transportation) into the daily operations of food service.

"One of the most exciting things I got to be a part of was launching the first public recycling program on the main level of the Memorial Union and educating students about the do's and don'ts of commingled recycling," TenPas said.

She will be graduating this spring, but her journey will not stop.

She is scheduled to serve as a camp counselor in the Colorado mountains this summer. After that she takes a small break before departing for two years with the Peace Corps to as-yet-to-be-determined-country.

"From there, who knows" she said," but I hope to be involved in promoting social justice, global health and sustainability in some capacity."

Written by Chakris Kussalanant