Santa Clara University


Faces of Sustainability

Lisa McMonagle: Personal Commitment to Food Justice

Some may say she’s passionate, others may say she’s over involved, but if one thing is for sure, Lisa McMonagle demonstrates commitment and drive for sustainable and just food. Her zeal for environmental justice through food is reflected through her academic, work at the Food and Agribusiness Institute, and extra curricular activities.

Involved in a number of clubs, Lisa lends her talent and expertise to GREEN Club, Think Outside the Bottle, and a variety of SCCAP programs, including B-LEJIT and Fossil Free SCU. Fossil Free SCU works to raise student awareness about the dangers of fossil fuel use and encourage SCU to stop investing in the top 200 fossil fuel energy companies. She is also a member of LOCALS (Living Off-Campus and Living Sustainably) an off-campus student group that holds monthly meetings to learn about ways to live a healthier and greener life and to support one another in those endeavors.

Unsatisfied with the opportunities for food justice involvement, Lisa and two friends, Sarah Madden and Chris Cate, started their own club: Bridging the Gap and Alleviating Poverty (BT GAP). BT GAP strives to raise student awareness of poverty in relation to food and the environment in our own backyards. One of Lisa’s proudest moments of BT GAP was the number of people who participated in the “Live Below the Line” challenge. Students were given a $1.50 allowance for food each day, the amount of money that 1.2 billion people in extreme poverty survive on. Many students rediscovered their love of peanut butter while learning the extreme difficulty for people on a severe budget to eat enough, let alone, eat healthily.

While in Appalachia for an Ignatian Center Immersion trip, Lisa had one of her most impactful experiences with harsh food insecurity and environmental injustice. After visiting mountaintop removal mining sites, Lisa was walking in a grocery store when she saw a woman pouring Dr. Pepper into a baby bottle for an infant no older than six months in her arms. After partaking in experiences like the “Live Below the Line” challenge, Lisa hopes that students will understand the difficulties of poverty in America and feel compassion for people who struggle everyday for inexpensive nutrition.

Her experiences of sustainable food go beyond California and West Virginia to the small South East Asian country of Myanmar. The Food and Agribusiness Institute leads immersion trips every year to locations around the world to teach students about agriculture around the world and alternative food systems. Lisa was struck by the lack of malnutrition in an underdeveloped economy such as Myanmar. In South East Asia, where rice fields provide harvests multiple times a year, the hunger rates are significantly lower than other developing nations, such as Tanzania where Lisa spent the summer with the School for Field Studies. Lisa continues her international food and environmental justice work this summer through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, through which she will travel to Indonesia to work with Nazava, a social enterprise working on water filtration systems designed for bottom-of-the-pyramid markets.

As an exemplary crusader for sustainability, Lisa is proud to say that she will “never, ever, ever buy or drink bottled water again.” She encourages students to take steps towards living a more sustainable life through their food purchasing, including shopping at the Farmers’ Market near Franklin Square, buying organic when you can, and getting involved with groups on-campus campaigning for environmental and social justice. But, no one is perfect; she does admit to driving her car a little too often, but don’t we all?

Contributed by Lynsey Cumberford-Palmer '14, Intern, Employee Engagement

Tags: Centers of Distinction, Food, Liaison Network, Profiles

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