The IU Food Institute will close next month after their funding was suspended by the College of Arts and Sciences.
James Farmer, interim director of the food institute, said the institute was important to have on campus because it provided undergraduates the opportunity to do research through the Critical Food Studies Lab and learn about topics like food justice and distribution systems.
“The Food Institute provided an opportunity to eat, drink, think and learn about complex issues and ways to tackle wicked, food-related problems,” Farmer said. “It brought folks from a variety of disciplines together to learn, explore and research important topics through multiple lenses.”
Community members are concerned about the institute closing. People will no longer be able to volunteer, intern or collaborate with other groups in the state to do research, Farmer said.
“I feel quite flattened by the institute’s closure,” Farmer said. “I am sad that the institute has come to an end as it was a major resource for people on campus, in the community and a critical draw for student enrollment and faculty recruitment.”
There is still hope for the future because people are still interested in learning about food systems and agrarian studies, Farmer said. The institute is working with students, faculty and staff at IU to expand the new Food Systems Program at the Ostrom Workshop, IU Campus Farm and new Food Systems and Agrarian Studies Consortium.
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The College of Arts and Sciences has had to redistribute their resources to prioritize graduate education and achieve their goals, Steven Barnes, executive director of communications and marketing in the College of Arts and Sciences, said in an email statement. The College is grateful for the work and contributions the Food Institute has made toward providing research opportunities and promoting food studies.
“It is better situated within larger campus initiatives related to sustainability,” Barnes said. “We are working on ways to incorporate the undergraduate-facing research activities — such as the Critical Food Studies lab — into existing College programs, such as the Arts + Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE.)”
Jodee Smith, assistant director of the Food Institute, said in an email statement she hopes IU can find ways to support food systems education because of how relevant it is to issues such as climate change. The Food Institute was important to the community because it garnered engagement and participation in their initiatives.
“We are deeply saddened by the closure,” Smith said. “Few places on campus provide this sort of rich interaction and learning around such a critical topic of our times.”
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IUFI intends to keep their website running through volunteers and provide updates on work concerning food and agrarian systems.