The Culinary Trust and Pacific Food Studies OpEd program

A Place at the Table: The Pacific Food Studies OpEd Fellowship is a national initiative to increase the diversity of voices among thought leaders in Op-Ed Food Media.

Created in partnership with University of the Pacific Food Studies program (Pacific Food Studies), The Culinary Trust (TCT), and The Op-Ed Project, the Pacific Food Studies Op-Ed Fellowship will provide food writers, scholars, and journalists (print, digital, and multimedia) from underrepresented communities with the training and support to craft and publish Op-Ed pieces about critical food issues. Inspired by The Op-Ed Project, our approach is playful, dynamic and results-oriented-games, high stakes scenarios, and group thought experiments that will challenge you to think more expansively about what you know, why it matters, and how it can create positive change in the food industry.

The intensive program is designed to push thinking and challenge assumptions. The Fellowship will prepare selected participants to create influential journalism pieces addressing critical issues in food. Fellows accepted into the program participate in a dynamic one and one-half day workshop held at University of the Pacific’s new state-of-the-art campus in the SoMa (South of Market) district of San Francisco and benefit from a three-month mentorship to help them produce at least one high-quality food journalism piece in their chosen media platform.

The Culinary Trust offers education, resources, food action grants, food writing programs -with a particular emphasis on food writing that makes a difference. That’s why we’ve partnered with The Op-Ed Project, whose mission is to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world. A starting goal is to increase the number of women thought leaders in key commentary forums to a tipping point. It is a social venture founded to drive bigger and better ideas into the world. Learn more at  The program is offered at Pacific’s new state-of-the-art campus in the SoMa (South of Market) district of San Francisco.  University of the Pacific offers the first Food Studies master’s degree program on the West Coast.  The Master of Arts in Food Studies program is designed for working professionals with a career or personal interest in food and the ways that people grow, prepare and profit from it, historically and across cultures. The multidisciplinary program prepares students for success in food-related professions, ranging from food writing, food history, advocacy, and policymaking to consumer research and other business-related pursuits. Course offerings represent many disciplines including Anthropology, History, Sociology, Literature, and Law, with emphasis on mastering research and writing skills. Learn more at University of the Pacific.

Here are some inspiring testimonials from our participants in the Pacific Food Studies OpEd Program:

“Writing for me has consistently fluctuated between being an insurmountable task, and the medium that I feel is best suited to fulfill my expression. Understanding that might make it easier to imagine the countless draft posts I have saved as private on Tumblr, the crafted arguments and rebuttals hiding in my Google Drive folder, that never see the light of peer revision, much less publication. The writing happens, it’s the sharing that does not. My weekend with the OpEd Project, hosted by the University of the Pacific’s Food Studies program pushed me a step closer to fulfilling the latter.

I applied to the OpEd Fellowship just months short of finishing my Food Studies Master’s at NYU, and was excited at the opportunity to hit the Bay Area food scene, writing. Fast forward four weeks, I’d graduated, moved back to Oakland, and the workshop weekend had arrived. I was early, but more than half of the women who would be there all weekend were earlier. I wasn’t the only one eager to take a crack at sharing my story. We did introductions, and writing experience varied; some women were working on publishing their second book, some hadn’t yet found their voice, and the rest sat somewhere in between. But as we went around the room and more women shared, one of my biggest worries was eased – no one there was writing the story I wanted to tell. No one was/is me. I had somehow built up the idea that someone, somewhere, had already said what I was thinking, and said it better. And that sentence alone could be an indicator of the devastating downplay I’ve made myself a prisoner to – it’s not just my thoughts on a topic I want to share, it’s the research I’ve done, the evaluations I’ve done through work experience, it’s food – education, justice, economics, cultural relevance – that I’ve committed my professional, academic, and personal life to, and I have the authority to write and share about it. I think that was the biggest take-away from the writing workshop for me, all possible through The Culinary Trust and the scholarship they so generously provided.

My fear of walking into a room full of people with similar experiences, and perspectives, and better writing skills to tell those stories with, was converted into a challenge. I was in a room full of women to tell a story that not enough people have heard. It is my responsibility to live up to and through the fear, to write what needs to be read, carve out that space in food writing as a woman of color from the borderlands of the West Coast working to reclaim my food heritage as my own, and I have all of the authority to do that.

Thank you to The Culinary Trust for making this reminder, understanding, affirmation possible.”


“We all have opinions… as banal as what we like to eat or movies we enjoy seeing, to more deeply held beliefs that revolve around our values, religion and work. For me, I’m adamant that farmers think about themselves as entrepreneurs and business people, and not just growers of food; that farmers need to be financially sustainable to continue doing what they love.

My work focuses around teaching farmers accounting and financial management.  Sexy, right? Getting farmers to focus on bookkeeping is about as appealing as a root canal: it’s a necessary evil, and we usually avoid it until it becomes dire. But to have a conversation about “sustainability” we can’t just talk about the environment and farming practices. We must also talk about ensuring that the stewards of our environment (including farmers) can support themselves financially so they can keep doing what they’re doing.

I’ve struggled with ways to get my message out. I know it should have wide ranging appeal, but can’t seem to get past my “choir”, the people who already agree with me on the importance of business management for farmers.  How do I reframe my opinion to make it part of the larger conversation on sustainability?

Last March, I received an email from The Culinary Trust: They were offering, through The Op-Ed project, a two-day workshop on how to write an op-ed piece. How could I say no?

San Francisco is not renowned for its summers, with its cold winds and dense fog. Nonetheless, on a summer weekend in July, I gathered with 20 women at the University of the Pacific to learn how to amplify our voices.

There was no shortage of opinions in the room. We were all interested in various aspects of food and social justice.  But for a variety of reasons, we needed help clarifying our views, and getting a gentle nudge to share them with our larger community.

We learned to appreciate our individual expertise, and what makes us credible. We learned how to articulate our argument and defend it with evidence. And we learned how to counter criticism.  And we built a support network to help carry us through after the two days had ended. I was just hoping to get an outline for how to write an op-ed piece, but I got so much more.  I ended up with a draft of my article, a mentor to help me refine it and a wonderful support network.

The first part of an op-ed piece is the hook – a timely event that links to the point we’re trying to make.  In the news the other day, I got my hook! Seventeen federal agencies published a draft report that stated we’re already feeling the effects of climate change.  We need small farmers more than ever to help protect the environment (and perhaps even reserve some of the damage), and for that they need to be financially sustainable. And with that, I sent my piece off to the NYTimes.

I won’t know for a few days if the Times will publish my article.  But it’s okay if they don’t. I have the tools and resources to keep plugging away and get my message out to the masses.

I’m grateful to The Culinary Trust for supporting my participation in this program; to Teresa Puente and The Op-Ed Project for organizing such a great program; and to Polly and the team at the University of the Pacific for pulling it all together.”

Julia Shanks