My senior thesis research will ethnographically explore the Eastside Greenthumbs (EGT) after school gardening and sustainability camp. Over the previous summer I worked as an intern for the EGT summer program, a free seven-week camp centered around a school garden outside of Roosevelt Elementary School in Tacoma. I became impassioned with the concept of helping children discover the food system around them and explore the benefits of healthy and sustainable eating. EGT is unique in its compassionate and hands-on approach to teaching, but there is a lack of sociological research confirming the legitimacy of the program both as a substantial tool for changing eating habits and for contributing to the food justice movement as a whole.
I plan to be a participant observer in the upcoming after-school program for EGT and interview families and community food justice leaders in order to gain a comprehensive prospective of the program. In the process of tackling the sociological issue of effective food justice and advocacy programs I want to examine EGT as a case study of the 21st century concept of help and the issue of the “white savior complex.” How does the positionality of the white, north-side program organizers interact with the multi-ethnic population they are attempting to “help”? In what ways do the organizer’s awareness of their positionality help and hinder their efforts? Does the community have a desire for the program in the first place, and if so, what is their prospective on those implementing the program? In order to effectively execute a program such as EGT these are questions that must be answered and are of great interest to me personally.
[NOTE: In the reconfigured SOAN curriculum, seniors in the department spend their Fall semester reading somewhat comprehensively on two topics they select from the breadth of sociological and anthropological interests. For many of the seniors, that new foundation in the social scientific literature will inform the independent research projects they will design and then conduct in the Spring semester. As we approach the midway point of the Fall semester, I asked students in my thesis seminar to sketch the research projects they are configuring for their last semester at Puget Sound. At this point, these are just plans, but collectively this group of projects look great.]