Thursday, June 8, 2017

URSP Student Roberto Vargas Conducts Research to Understand the Relationship between GMU Students and Current Food Culture

My name is Roberto Vargas, and I am a full-time student at George Mason University double-majoring in economics and environmental sustainability studies with a concentration in sustainable agriculture. I have spent my entire academic and professional career focusing on the advancement of
sustainability projects in the field of agriculture. My OSCAR research project is no different, it is focused on food, farming, and collegiate institutions. I have always been interested in how areas in urban areas can be  both simultaneously “food deserts” and yet also “food swamps”. I was fortunate to connect with Dr. Kerri LaCharite, who has years’ experience working in sustainable food movements. We both bonded over the idea about how to transform the college food experience.

I want to use my research as a catalyst to transform food on campus to benefit students. I want to use the skills learned from the experience and the incredible Dr. Kerri LaCharite. I also hope to continue working on research like this.

My research focuses on understanding the relationship between George Mason students and the current food culture. I developed a George Mason student survey, so that I could better understand overall student knowledge of sustainable food programs already happening on campus, e.g. GMU Organic Gardening Association and Pop-Up Pantry. I wanted to create a survey that was both informational for both myself and students on campus. I was surprised to learn that many students on campus were unsure of current programs but also felt helpless to make changes in the procurement of campus dining. Initially, I focused my attention on various successful programs on other college campuses. I then met with key stake-holders, including faculty and dining staff to better understand the areas that need improvement and how to continue to make institutional changes on campus. I am looking forward to the opportunity to continue to conduct research in this area and for George Mason University becoming more sustainable in their food policy practices and procurement for campus dining.