The Don Aldrich Award
Neva Hassanein - 2015
Missoula is known as the Garden City, and Neva Hassanein’s passion and advocacy for food democracy has helped Missoula live up to that name. A nationally-recognized scholar-activist and self-described “devout generalist,” Neva’s skill set includes research, writing, organizing, and educating – all channeled into changing the way we look at our current food systems and how we plan for sustainable community futures.
Combining civic engagement with knowledge of agriculture and food systems, Neva’s work champions food democracy, which she defines as “the idea that people can and should actively participate in shaping the food system, rather than remain passive consumers on the sidelines.”
As an Environmental Studies Professor at the University of Montana, Neva’s courses explore qualitative research methods, sustainable communities, politics of food, and leadership engagement. As an educator, she empowers her students to identify their purpose and build a coalition working for a better future. Her specialty in community-based action research involves her students and the community in creating new knowledge that motivates action. The result has been action that emphasizes collaboration between community organizations and businesses to build long term secure community food systems that are ecologically, economically, and socially viable. She produced the Missoula County Community Food Assessment, which helped local food agencies obtain a major federal grant and led to the founding of the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition (CFAC). She also built UM’s campus-community partnership for local food into a nationally recognized program.
In addition to her academic work, Neva served on Northern Plains Resource Council as an organizer and lobbyist, CFAC’s Board of Directors (2010-2011), and as President of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society. She has published in journals like Agricultural and Human Values, and authored the book, Changing the Way America Farms: Knowledge and Community in the Sustainable Agriculture Movement (University of Nebraska Press). She is currently working on a book called, Storied Foodscapes: Place and Possibility in Montana.
Neva’s contributions have been recognized by awards including: Missoula Conservation Roundtable’s Don Aldrich Award for longtime contributions to conservation of natural resources and environmental protection; Excellence in Public Service Award from the Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society; Distinguished Alumni Award from the Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin; Sustainable Agriculture Education Award from the Alternative Energy Resources Organization of Montana; the Helen and Winthrop Cox Award for Excellence in Teaching from UM College of Arts and Sciences; and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Award for Campus-Community Partnerships.
In the words of her UM colleague Vicki Watson, “[Neva] helped our community envision how our food system could be more sustainable, secure, and democratic, and has worked strategically with others to make the path clear and walkable. She has helped to feed Missoula & Montana– body and soul.”
Biography by Kalle Fox