Director and Associate Professor of Geography
GIS Research Director
Thomson Gross is the Food Justice Lab’s GIS Director of Research and has lent his skills to nearly every project that has come out of the lab. He is a great resource to anyone that wants to understand the evolution and future prospects of the Lab. The projects in which he has found himself the most involved are WV Foodlink, and the Lab’s collaboration with the USDA’s SNAP Ed program in West Virginia. Thomson has done extensive work with SNAP Ed’s reporting systems and development of databases that will provide the foundation necessary for the Lab to provide continued collaboration and policy counseling in the future.
Education and Outreach Director
Amanda Marple began her work with the lab near its beginning. Much of her work has involved both active and research roles around cooperatives, particularly student and youth led cooperatives, as alternative means towards grassroots economic organizing. First Hand Cooperative, perhaps the Lab’s first incubated project to gain significant autonomy, owes a lot to her leadership and she continues to hold a major role with an organization positioning itself as a leader in worker owned cooperatives. Her Masters work focused on the democratization of Neoliberal Foodscapes. Through examination of these spaces Amanda and the Lab hope to provide council and resources in the building of diverse collectivities on college campuses and beyond.
Food Systems Director
Fritz is a native of Charleston, WV and a graduate of WVU. As a small farmer in the Greenbrier Valley, he has worked in his local community to create and lead the implementation of many local food system projects.
Food Policy Director
Josh Lohnes is a Phd candidate and one of the longer tenured members of the Lab. Josh has a wealth of knowledge on the broad slate of projects and research that the lab has done over the last few years. That position has Josh excited to see how the Lab’s work can contribute to emerging discourses in Food Justice outside of our home here in the mountains. His thesis work deals particularly with the emergency food system and its reliance on charitable, often faith based initiatives. His major contributions to WV Foodlink, another Lab project poised for greater independence, have helped the Lab keep its goals of action research and praxis in clear view.
Graduate Research Assistant
Jed DeBruin is a Masters candidate in the Geography Department and a Graduate Research Assistant in the Food Justice Lab. Contributions to The Farm Study and Nourishing Networks program are important parts Jed’s growing portfolio with the Lab. He is also beginning work on his Masters thesis this summer, primarily basing himself out of Southeastern Ohio. There, he will have access to communities and organizations at the forefront of the branded local food system in Southeast Ohio. Food justice, political ecology, and political economy of tourism frameworks will inform Jed’s research, as he hopes to gain greater understanding of how responses to the lengthening of supply chains in capitalist economies both create new opportunities for food system development but also reinforces existing inequities to food access.
Alanna Higgins is entering her second year with the lab as a Phd candidate in the Geography Department. As this is written Alanna is beginning the exciting early phases of her dissertation work. Farmacy programs, which have become a popular way to address questions of both nutrition and food access have caught her attention of late and are shaping up to be the subject of her thesis. In applying her extensive background in research methodology on the Farm Study Alanna has been a tremendous asset to the Lab. We are excited to see where her research goes over the summer and beyond.
Graduate Research Assistant
Heidi Gum works in the Lab as the Coordinator of the Nourishing Networks program. Over the past year, her leadership at the six pilot workshops has found communities from Logan to Wood counties coming together to consider both immediate needs and structural barriers to Food Justice in their counties. Each county will now have the opportunity to apply for grants that will provide seed funding for the initiatives that have come out of those workshops. Looking forward Heidi will be continuing this work as she begins to also examine potential areas of study on the role of self provisioning in the food system as a graduate student with the department.