Hey y’all! My name is Ellyana Gomez, and I am in my fourth and final year at Pitt. I am a social work student with a minor in public service. Throughout my years at Pitt, I’ve volunteered at many different organizations throughout the city and have worked previously as an intern for City Council District 8 and as a research assistant with the Pittsburgh Wage Study. I am a writer and blogger for The Pitt News as well as a published poet and cookbook author. I currently serve as a public policy intern at Just Harvest, a food justice advocacy organization.
My research project with the Office of Diversity has several focuses. My mentor, Ron Idoko, was a professor of mine for a couple of my public service classes. He does work in antiracism training and civic engagement in the community. Part of my project focuses on these aspects in assisting with developing new resources for the Antiracism Institute and new content for the newly developed CivWiz app. These projects are important in building a stronger, more connected and knowledgeable community.
The second part of my project focuses on analyzing current food retail policy in underdeveloped areas that lack a full grocery store- also known as food deserts. Throughout the city of Pittsburgh, the majority of food deserts are located in majority Black neighborhoods. The surrounding suburban areas are also growing in food insecurity and in their Black population. My project will help identify community development issues and public policy that can help address this lack of access to fresh, healthy produce. The project is similar to a previous study “A Menu for Food Justice” in that it focuses on ways to address the food deserts in Pittsburgh, but it will take a deeper dive into the feasibility of corner store produce supply chain subsidies as a means to make fresh foods more available in communities who need it.
Food justice has been an important issue to me throughout my time at Pitt. Volunteering at a food bank my sophomore year, I got the idea for my cookbook, Full Table Full Plate, which focuses on using ingredients you can find at food pantries and purchase with food benefits to make healthy, delicious meals. Now my work at Just Harvest is centered around ensuring food access to all Pennsylvanians through community organizing, policy advocacy, and assistance with public benefits. Access to healthy food options is cornerstone to healthy development and thriving communities.
The Community Research Fellowship was such a great opportunity for me because it provides the framework for success in community-based research. The seminars and cohort are incredibly helpful in helping develop your research and think through any issues you might face. My cohort specifically has been really helpful because all of our projects focus on food insecurity in some way. Having those colleagues available and the mentors at the Honors College and your community partner agency is so incredibly helpful in guiding your progress.
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Great initial post, Ellyana! I really enjoyed reading about your journey with food-related social justice issues — looking forward to seeing how this year transforms that journey more!