In our third unit we’ve been talking about some of the tensions that arise when we’re attempting to balance public and private interests: feeding kids with public money, contracting private agencies to feed people in public institutions, etc. These questions are inseparable from our central topics in Units I and II: they’re deeply tied to stories we tell ourselves about our identities (who deserves what?) and industrialized food systems (How do we feed an **entire** nation of children healthy food, when large-scale food production and distribution by nature compromises health?).
For your 3rd unit assignment, I’d like to you look at how these tensions play out on the local level. For this assignment, you’ll choose *one* of the topics below, read an assigned text, and answer some targeted questions about how we should balance public and private interests.
Each of these questions could be answered quickly, but I’d like you to budget time to explore the nuances of these problems. Consider the stakeholders, the costs and benefits of different courses of action, and be prepared to defend your choices in spite of the costs they will incur.
Length: 1500 words.
Bibliography: You’ll all have at least once source (prescribed below), but I encourage you to seek out local debate on these issues, in social media, news and magazine comments sections, etc. These are, for Richmonders, high stakes issues.
Topic 1: VCU and local restaurants
Read Greg Hershey’s “Back to Old School” and revisit what you know about VCU’s contract with Aramark to provide food services on and adjacent to campus. Hershey is angry that things have changed so much near campus; part of the changes he mentions is the loss of local restaurants. Use Google Street View over time to look at how Grace street has changed. Then ask: VCU is a public institution, founded to meet the needs of the public. It is not, however, accessible to everyone. Whose needs are paramount as Richmond continues to redevelop? Should we focus on meeting the needs of a growing student body, or should we preserve more of Richmond’s history and local culture?
Topic 2: Richmond’s meals tax
Read this coverage in the Richmond Times Dispatch on the recent debate over whether Richmond should levy a meals tax to support schools. You can also find discussion about the meals tax on Mayor Levar Stoney’s Facebook page, and on the Stop the RVA Meals Tax Facebook thread. Public discussion has debated if we should prioritize the needs of enrolled students or private businesses. Should Richmond proceed with an expansion of its existing meals tax?
Topic 3: Food Not Bombs
Read David Streever’s coverage of Richmond’s Food Not Bombs network. Unlike Toronto, RVA FNB is not dumpster diving for food, but in this article they do note that they have chosen not to upgrade their kitchen to meet standards for public-grade food service. FNB is already working at a disadvantage after losing access to Monroe Park as a primary food distribution site. Should the city require FNB to upgrade their kitchen, even if it means a temporary (or long term) shut down in services?