Meet Board Member Rachel Hannon
Hi all! My name is Rachel Hannon and I am writing this post to tell you a little about my summer, particularly the abroad program I did in Ghana called Hunger and Food Security in a Global Perspective.
I learned about this study abroad trip from two of last year’s WFPA board members, Leah Selim and Ryan Brown. I am a Steinhardt Food Studies student and was interested in studying food in the developing world, so this course was a perfect fit. The course is taught by Professors John Gershman and Diana Beck and I highly recommend it to Wagner students and Nutrition/Public Health/Food Studies students interested in food policy.
Immediately after Spring term exams ended, we started a 3-week pre-departure class on campus. We discussed global commodity chains, the Green Revolution, food security and food sovereignty, the crisis of fish, and responses to global food crisis. This was an intensive preparation for issues we would be studying in the field in Ghana.
Once in Ghana our main assignment was to create a field research memo with a small group and develop a basic commodity chain analysis. What was wonderful about this task was that we got to do it in the field – we were talking directly to stakeholders and key players at every step along the value chain. The bulk of our research took place at 3 major markets in Accra, Kumasi, and Tamale, and as we travelled north by bus we had many other opportunities to ask Ghanaians about the commodities we were studying. I was a part of the rice team, and other commodities included tomatoes, shea butter, fish and cassava.
Professors Gershman and Beck, along with the NYU Accra staff, truly made this trip outstanding. Each meeting was engaging and informative and we had the opportunity to ask the “tough” questions at every visit, such as use of GMO seeds, gender roles, fair trade, food access issues, land rights, and labor issues. Some highlight meetings/site visits included: The School Feeding Program, Millenium Village Project, AGRA, Cape Coast fisherman village, Tono Irrigation site, USAID, and a visits to a cocoa farm, shea butter cooperatives, and various farms. We also had an impromptu “Chopped” cook off in the NYU Accra dorms with ingredients from the Kaneshi Market (one of the joys of studying food is eating food).
It was a life-changing trip and I hope to make it back to Ghana and other parts of West Africa again someday. The course allowed me to grapple with my own understandings and opinions about food aid, farming methods, and the broader global food system. We saw firsthand how essential infrastructure is to the value chain, and we witnessed broader social and cultural issues that impact food production. Ultimately, we all felt so lucky to be able to share time with the wonderful, smart, and inspiring people of Ghana.
Stay tuned this year for info sessions for this summer’s trip!