Class of 2019’s Brooke Duplantier is setting her post-grad table with a Master of Arts degree in Food Studies at Pittsburgh’s Chatham University, saving a choice seat for the LMU mission. Hailing from New Orleans, Brooke is eager to gear her Political Science degree towards food politics, digging into the system and cooking up solutions to its greatest inequities.
“I’m leaving LMU with a responsibility to use my education and privileges out in the greater world,” Brooke said, who also majored in English. “My Jesuit education encouraged me to be critical of the systems around us and taught me what it means to be committed to social justice.”
Kicking off in August, Brooke says her program will take a comprehensive look at food from all angles, including environmental and sustainability concerns, cultural and historical traditions, food access, political concerns and food businesses and entrepreneurship, among others.
The recipient of LMU’s 2019 Marian Award for excellence in leadership, service and academia, as well as a Presidential Citation, Brooke says her passion for the field developed after experiencing food insecurity first hand following the devastating effects of two hurricanes blindsiding her home state.
“Those experiences really informed this idea that it doesn’t take much for a family, regardless of class, to fall into food insecurity,” Brooke said, describing her own family as middle-class. “Food is so fundamental to our lives, yet there are so many discrepancies in the quality and access to food that many people have – better systems need to be in place.”
Drawn to LMU for its commitment to service and social justice, Brooke says she was looking for a college experience that would give her the tools to become a well-rounded individual, and her time on the bluff didn’t disappoint.
“LMU became one of the most fulfilling experiences I could have asked for,” Brooke said. “I don’t think I’d be moving across the country if my professors and friends hadn't made me feel that I could independently make change.”
Brooke channeled her passion for food justice into several campus pursuits, most notably by helping to develop and run the LMU Food Pantry alongside the Center for Service and Action. The Pantry opened its doors in 2017 and offers free food to community members experiencing hunger or food insecurity.
“I’m so proud of the work we’ve done with it,” she said. “There’s much more to be done, so I’m a bit sad I don’t get to keep helping it grow.”
Brooke also made her mark as President of the LMU chapter of Oxfam, a non-profit dedicated to issues of poverty and hunger and through her participation in Sursum Corda service organization, for which she was Vice President of Social Justice.
A particular highlight of Brooke’s college experience was venturing to Paris on an Honors Summer Research grant to explore cuisine as an avenue for social change at a refugee food festival.
“I concluded that success relies on public knowledge and acceptance of an outsider’s cuisine,” Brooke said. “Food businesses and food work should be one of the main ways to integrate outsiders into Parisian society while respecting their own cultures – but there needs to be more accessible pathways for outsiders to establish their own restaurants in Paris.”
But she says her mind wasn’t always on food. In fact, one of her favorite Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts courses was her Honors Theology class taught by Professor Douglas Christie.
“We would just read people’s life stories, their autobiographies,” Brooke said. “I really appreciated how were giving time and respect to these people’s identities, just sitting with a person’s story and reacting to it. It inspired me to seek out voices of people I have never heard before.”
Looking to the future, Brooke hopes to take the knowledge gained in graduate school and take part in a new chain of non-profit, community supported restaurants called “Pay What You Eat,” but admits that life’s main course is still undecided.
As for what advice Brooke has for future Lions?
“Put your best effort into the things that give you the skills and the qualities of the person you want to be when you leave LMU,” she said. “Make yourself proud, while giving back to your community.”