Food Systems Certificate Student Profiles

Read about one of our recent program graduates below! You can also learn about program requirements, visit our FAQ page, meet our faculty or apply now.

Anina Estrem

Where are you from?

I'm from Newberg, Oregon, which is a small town about twenty miles south of Portland.

What is your educational/professional background, and how does it relate to sustainable food systems?

Following receiving my undergraduate degree in American history from Earlham College, I spent a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA in eastern Montana working in three rural towns to increase access to healthy food. I started a school lunch compost program, taught nutrition to students from kindergarten to third grade and initiated plans for a school garden. I also researched food cooperatives and community-run grocery stores while working with a community that was without any food access within 35 miles. 

I spent a year serving with FoodCorps in rural eastern Oregon. I worked with the North Powder Charter School's thriving Farm to School program to increase the fresh produce served on the lunch line, boost harvest in the production-scale school garden, and taught gardening, cooking and nutrition to kindergarten through fifth grade.

Following FoodCorps, I spent two years in east Portland managing three school-based food pantries in partnership with the Oregon Food Bank. I procured food with a focus on healthy and culturally appropriate foods for our diverse clientele, and also oversaw distribution and nutrition education efforts. I also taught cooking and gardening classes in east county Title I schools.

Now I am working on a masters degree in public policy focusing on food access, with the intent of pursuing a career in policy consulting, food banking or local government. 

What are some of the most pressing issues in food systems, in Oregon and beyond?

I believe that the health crisis caused by our current food system is really a crisis of income inequality, thanks to a system that ensures healthy food is the most inaccessible for people in poverty. It cannot be solved through the food and agriculture system alone, and I think the food movement needs to seek out every opportunity for new partnerships.

Portland is known as being a particularly progressive city with environmental and food policy. How do you see the region’s various offerings fitting into your program at PSU?

There is an amazing amount of energy in the air in Portland when it comes to sustainable food efforts. Our city has an incredible network of people working on food issues from every angle, providing numerous resources both for academic studies of the food system as well as career-building experiences. 

Are there any non-profits or governmental agencies you’re interested in collaborating with?

There are several organizations that I follow very closely, both because of the incredible work they do as well as for job opportunities. The Oregon Food Bank, Ecotrust, Mercy Corps, Village Gardens/Janus Youth, Growing Gardens, Upstream Public Health, and Zenger Farm are all high on my radar. 

What courses have you taken so far, and how do they fit into the overall scope of your educational goals?

I've taken Food and Agriculture Policy, Geography of Food, Health and Social Inequality, and I also adapted Sustainable Development Practices for the certificate. These classes have provided me with a really strong foundation of agricultural policy as well as emphasizing the complexity of achieving equity within this system, particularly in the context of sustainability. 

What other some other courses you're interested in, and how do they all fit together?

I am most excited for Food Systems and Public Health, because I think considering the relationship between public health, poverty and equity is the most important aspect of developing alternative food systems that are sustainable and foster health for everyone. 

What are some activities you’re interested in outside of school?

I have a small garden that I love to work in, and am hopefully going to expand upon this spring. I spend a lot of time walking, hiking or snowshoeing with my coon hound mutt, Juniper, and have a growing interest in punk rock music and cooking my own Thai food.