Avalon Gupta VerWiebe, nutrition and social justice attorney, named first recipient of the Evan Weissman Fellowship
Avalon Gupta VerWiebe, a food science graduate from Falk College, is the first to receive the Evan Weissman Scholarship, a newly created scholarship fund in honor of the late Professor Weissman who supports food science graduates. Gupta VerWiebe’s personal commitment and continued work in nutrition and social justice and community nutrition projects follow the legacy of Professor Weissman’s lifelong commitment to nutritional justice and the use of food as a tool for social change.
Gupta VerWiebe is from Syracuse but moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where she attended high school and completed her bachelor’s degree in public health. “From the systemic inequalities that I experienced, I developed a passion for environmental justice and later for nutritional justice,” says Gupta VerWiebe. Before entering college, she was involved in many food justice organizations such as Louisville Community Grocery, Field Day Family Farm, Garden Commons Community Garden, New Roots Fresh Stop Markets, and Cardinal Cupboard Food Pantry, all in Louisville.
“I applied for Syracuse University’s food studies program because it offers courses that examine the social, political, and cultural elements of the food system,” she says. “These courses give me the tools to advocate transformative change.” Falk College’s food study program focuses on the social, political, economic and environmental contexts of food production, manufacture, distribution and consumption – local, nationally and globally. Students on the program gain a deep understanding of food policy and governance, gastronomy, the health effects of food systems, human nutrition and access to food.
“I hope one day I will be able to work towards a more equitable nutritional system that gives everyone access to culturally appropriate, tasty, safe and healthy food that is grown and distributed by fair means,” added Gupta VerWiebe.
At Syracuse University, Gupta VerWiebe is doing an internship at the university’s Lender Center for Social Justice. As a Lender Center Fellow, she works with the Syracuse Onondaga Food Systems Alliance (SOFSA) and is committed to preparing a statement of equity for SOFSA. She also works with the Onondaga Nation and youth to document food stories from elders.
“Avalon is characterized by its great commitment to social and racial justice in the food system,” says Professor Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, advisor to Gupta VerWiebe and head of the Graduate School Food. “Since she returned to Syracuse last year, she has taken every opportunity to get involved in community-based food system projects here in the city. It embodies Professor Weissman’s personal and professional commitment to community research and creating lasting connections that improve food access and sustainability for all. “
Professor Evan Weissman was a tireless advocate for justice in the food system. As a very approachable, dedicated teacher who involved students in community-based work to drive social change, his efforts have laid the foundation for many communities at regional, national and beyond for grassroots food justice initiatives. He passed away unexpectedly in April 2020. To honor his legacy and continue the work he believed in so deeply, his family established the Evan Weissman Scholarship Fund to help pay for graduate studies in food science.
“This scholarship is an invaluable gift that enables me to continue my studies,” says Gupta VerWiebe. “I am extremely honored to receive this fellowship on behalf of Evan Weissman. Although I didn’t get a chance to meet Dr. Meeting Weissman inspires me to hear stories about how he stood up for social justice in the local food system and within the university to do the same. “
For more information on the Food Study Program at Falk College, Syracuse University, visit the Falk College website.