Students in a Food Security seminar course at the College of Charleston are learning how to generate and support local food systems, and why the health of local food systems is instrumental for the health of a society. On February 2, 2013 they will take their instruction off campus for the first of two field trips. The day will begin with volunteer work at the Lowcountry Foodbank in North Charleston, followed by a visit to two farms— Ambrose Farm on Wadmalaw Island and Joseph Field’s Farm on Johns Island—and ending with a visit to the College’s Dixie Plantation to work in the organic garden. 

Todd LeVasseur, a visiting assistant professor in religious studies and environmental studies, was recently awarded an Innovative Teaching and Learning in the Liberal Arts grant, and the grant money is funding the field trips.

“The students will be exposed to issues of community hunger and learn about access to food and affordability of food,” LeVasseur explains. “They will also gain an appreciation for the hard and noble work of farming. They will hear from farmers first hand the challenges of farming, and learn about the history of farming in Charleston.”

One of the goals of the Environmental Studies minor is to teach College of Charleston students about how to manage natural resources, as well as the power dynamics at play in the management, distribution, and consumption of those resources. “For all of these deeper issues we’re covering, food is the starting point,” says LeVasseur.

“The main metric of the industrial agriculture model is crop yields, and within this limited metric, it can be argued that the model has been successful, although some studies suggest yield loads have peaked and may even be in decline. However, from a more holistic point of view, the industrial agriculture model is highly deleterious to farm ecosystems,” says LeVasseur. “Most of the calories we ingest are products of the industrial food system, which itself is a product of artificially cheap fossil fuels. This is a national security issue, as well as a public health/security issue.”

In April, LeVasseur’s seminar students will visit two supermarkets to study food deserts and food marketing and retailing, then to Grow Food Carolina to select food that they’ll cook and serve at Crisis Ministries. For more information, contact Todd LeVasseur at 843.953.3095 or