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Department of Ethnic Studies

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Tackling Food Insecurity and Promoting Food Justice on Campus

Through the REAL program, Chloe Gentile-Montgomery '21 researched food insecurity at SCU in an effort to reduce stigma and work towards food justice on campus.

Through the REAL program, Chloe Gentile-Montgomery '21 researched food insecurity at SCU in an effort to reduce stigma and work towards food justice on campus.

By Sarah Stoddard ’23

At Santa Clara University, food insecurity is rarely talked about. Environmental Science and Ethnic Studies double major Chloe Gentile-Montgomery '21 is working to change that. Throughout her experience with the REAL program during the summer of 2020, Gentile-Montgomery conducted research in order to assess students’ current needs and provide data to SCU’s Food Insecurity Program. Using a survey she created to measure food insecurity levels of current students, Gentile-Montgomery was able to bring more awareness to the University’s food insecurity program and food pantry. The research project was so big that her work still continues today.

Gentile-Montgomery’s two majors inspired her passion for food justice. “Food security really lies at the intersection of the two,” she says. She believes a food pantry is essential to the University because she knows that many SCU students do experience food insecurity. And yet, there is little to no awareness that the food pantry exists. “There are structural barriers to food access, and for college students, the rate of food insecurity is higher than it is for the general population,” Gentile-Montgomery explains. Overall, it is an issue that needs to be addressed, and one that Gentile-Montgomery cares very much about.

An average workday for Gentile-Montgomery over the summer consisted of meeting with SCU professors, people from the food pantry, Multicultural Center staff, and more to talk about how to create a comprehensive and successful survey that could provide a large amount of useful data. Working remotely due to the global pandemic was not the easiest experience, but Gentile-Montgomery says, “I felt like we made the most of it.” Most challenging, she continues, was time management and planning. On top of that, the process of creating a survey proved to be long and tedious. But even through all the protocols, guidelines, and expectations, Gentile-Montgomery was able to create a successful survey that was sent out to students during Fall Quarter. 

While the survey was her main focus over the summer, the research did not stop when classes started again in the fall. In fact, she received funding from SCU’s Center for Food Innovation to continue on the path she had started with the REAL program. “Now, we are in the process of interviewing students on the topic,” she says, excited to be in the next stage of her project. The interviews will allow students to give feedback or critiques on the current dining system and present examples of what their dream food system would look like. “Hearing different people’s perspectives and ideas is really exciting,” Gentile-Montgomery says. 

In the future, Gentile-Montgomery wants to become a teacher. She plans to use her experience with the REAL program to bring awareness about food security to students in schools. To those who are interested in combining social justice and research, Gentile-Montgomery says to “just go for it.” She explains that with social justice research, people often become hesitant about their ideas. Not every project will succeed. But, if you have something you are passionate about and willing to work for, you should always take the risk. 

About the REAL Program

The REAL Program provides paid experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences. Developed to allow students to discover their interests, gain a rich understanding of a particular field, discern their career goals, and explore future employment fields, the program has distributed nearly $1.7 million to more than 300 students across all majors since its inception in 2018. Placements range from non-profit and community service organizations to research labs, governmental organizations, and beyond. Learn more at www.scu.edu/real/.

REAL, student story