I have had an interest in
aspects of food, culture, and health since I was a child. After high school I
attended Johnson and Wales University, obtaining an Associate degree in
culinary arts. From Johnson and Wales in Charleston, South Carolina I moved to
Columbia to attend the University of South Carolina and after three years
obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in cultural anthropology. One year after
graduation from my Bachelors program I enrolled in the anthropology Masters
program at the University of South Carolina and received the degree two years
later in cultural anthropology. My research focused on identity as it relates
to an ethnic religious group in Brooklyn, New York. Though this research did
not focus solely on food, it made me aware of the important role that food plays
in constructing and maintaining both group and individual identity.
I enrolled in the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health PhD program intending to study the role of food in terms food pantry participation. However, over the course of my program I began to see the problem of hunger in America as more systemic and perhaps related to our underlying beliefs about the role of food and its place as a commodity more than a human right. I chose to focus on the SNAP program because of its large scale and controversial existence.