Grant Stokes Student Appetites for Food History and Research

Of the essential foods stockpiled by people in the days before and after Hurricane Sandy, bread was the first staple to disappear from grocery aisles and the last to be replenished.

This is one of several findings related to Sandy, concluded by Queensborough students in Dr. Megan Elias’ food history class, who investigated how a regional crisis can affect food supplies.

Beginning in the fall of 2013, other such foodways research will be made possible through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which has awarded a $74, 937 grant to Queensborough Community College entitled “The Foodways and Humanities Project.”

About 100 history students from Queensborough, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Kingsborough Community College will collaborate on gathering and preparing recipes from the pre-Colombian, post-Columbian and industrial era. The research components will be videorecorded and shared as teaching resources.

“This is an important opportunity for students to learn the cultural and psychological significance of every day food choices throughout history and how these choices have impacted global economics,” said Dr. Elias, project director, who will be working with co-director, Gregory Umbach, Associate Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Dr. Elias added “The project will help history students to see the material reality of what they study and will give culinary arts students a sense of the history of their chosen field.”

In November 2012, QCC student Samantha Depra posted a Hurricane Sandy story on the class wiki, describing her interview with Jean Zagorski, owner of Hand Rolled Bagels in New Hyde Park, Long Island.

“I asked her how Hurricane Sandy had affected her business,” said Samantha. “Jean was grateful that the bakery wasn’t damaged and that she was able to open the next day. To her amazement—from the time she opened to the time she closed—the lines of customers reached down the block and around the corner. She had to bake furiously in order to keep up with demand and also to help those who were in dire need of food. Jean recalled that in just one day, she donated six large bags full of bagels to the Red Cross.”

This is the third National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant awarded to Queensborough Community College within the past two years. In August 2011, the College received a $500,000 NEH Challenge Grant to help raise an endowment to support interdisciplinary programs at The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives (KHRCA). In December of 2012, the NEH awarded a $359,659 grant, Bridging Historias through Latino History and Culture to the American Social History Project/Center for Media Learning at The Graduate Center, CUNY in partnership with Queensborough Community College, as part of the NEH Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges Initiative.