“I always had a vision of myself that I felt like I could get to if I just kept pushing. I thank God I had that spirit,” reminisced Lindsey Lunsford, Sustainable Food Systems Resource Specialist at Tuskegee University, one of the most distinguished historically black institutions. She works and studies as a PhD student for Tuskegee’s Carver Integrative Sustainability Center (CISC) under the university’s Cooperative Extension Program. CISC strives to increase the economy and sustainability of small farmers and their surrounding cooperatives and communities. Heralding the tradition of George Washington Carver, it serves as a resource to disperse holistic, easy-to-understand agricultural innovations as well as increase engagement between the government and farmers.
Lindsey’s part in it all?
“I link policy…with food systems.” She sees food systems as literal systems.
“It’s like a body, everything flows together, works together, but there are blockages.” Blockages that could be investigated in perspectives of production, processing, transportation, nutrition, consumption, and more. But, as a food system specialist, she understands the relationships between every piece of the puzzle, every organ in the body, and the way those pieces work together. “That is what is fueling the movement,” she explains, “because it’s people growing the food, people processing the food, transporting the food, marketing the food, so you’re dealing with food, but you’re also dealing with people.” Ultimately, people are critical components in making food systems benefit us all, which justifies how important they are when considering the effectiveness of our own local systems. With that in mind, she strives to connect how some people get food and others don’t, taking note on everything that comes in between.
“So, a lot of my work is coming to … highlighting the [need] for racial equity in the food systems.” What others may see as a distribution problem, Lindsey clearly recognizes as the absence of racial equity. “What I can give the world is the ability… to examine racial equity issues… That’s what we’re missing. We can have the best every type of other thing, but if we don’t… see the history [of] land loss, and housing issues, and so forth, [we can’t see] that it’s people working together and the way people interact [that’s causing food inequity].” Accordingly, Lindsey’s work is entrenched in her community. Besides her BA in Political Science and BA in History, she has become a sort of translator, breaking down complicated academic jargon for her those who need it “Because sometimes, as you can understand, the language between town and gown can get lost… so outreach professionals…make excellent translators.”
Regarding her job, Lindsey enjoys the strength and perseverance always on display among the Tuskegee Community, especially in small farmers. “To see people truly trying to be better on a regular basis, and to get to be in anyway helpful to people who are trying to make the world a better place,” Lindsey illustrates, is truly what gets her excited.
Nonetheless, she tries to remain helpful in the present and only sees herself climbing even further. “I’m a mountain climber. I’m gonna make it to the top and I don’t know what it looks like up there, but I know I was given a direction and I have to go that way… I just gotta keep heading up.” And, she’s not leaving behind anyone, even if the Good Food Movement loses its popularity in the future. One of her last remarks on the Good Food Movement were: “As far as my people eating, we’re gonna eat.”