Celebrating 10 Years of the Fellows Program: Shira Kauffman

Shira Kauffman
Fellow from August 2017 to June 2019, based in Chicago

Bon Appétit campus attended: Carleton College

Current job: Filling in on Bon Appétit’s purchasing team — and selling tofu at the farmers’ market.

Skill/wisdom you gained from the Fellowship: Coming into the Fellowship I had a lot of passion, excitement and big ideas, but few tactics for organizing them. The Fellowship taught me how to take that passion and creative thinking, and direct it. Being a Fellow also forced me to go outside of my comfort zone in ways that I never had before; as a result I feel more confident in a diverse range of spaces.

Memorable experience as a Fellow: On a visit to Knox College, the executive chef and I gave a guest lecture in an Environment after the Apocalypse class. Chef Joe and I made sure our guest lecture was commensurately quirky. We  arrived to class with freshly made acorn tea, from acorns that the students had foraged during the previous class period. We kicked off our lecture with a discussion around how climate change may affect the future of agriculture and which crops would be able to grow after an environmentally induced apocalypse. Joe then explained how the tea was made and I spoke to the nutritional benefits of acorns. As the students sipped their acorn tea garnished with fresh mint and vegan honey, we talked about foraging and I spoke to the students about the different medicinal herbs that they could find and how to use them. The students also shared some of the survival skills they were mastering as part of class.

Advice for current food-activist students: When I was in college, my supervisor gave me some of the best advice for creating change in our campus food system. She said that instead of pushing and pushing at an issue from the same vantage point, you should try to look at every angle, sitting down and talking to all of the actors involved. I took that advice to heart and have applied it to everything I do to this day. Instead of getting bogged down by my own perspective, I try to understand all of the possible sides of the issue and find a way to have a discussion with everyone involved. The work that you are doing as a student activist is important and influential, and the more that you can reach and have real productive discussions with those who oppose you or you oppose, the more your voice will be heard.

Read more Fellows 10th Anniversary interviews: