Town-gown Awards honor food-related community partnerships

Three community organizations dedicated to food, security, and agricultural justice research have been honored by Cornell for their campus-community partnerships in 2022.

The 12th Annual Cornell Town-Gown Awards – also known as TOGOs – celebrated the collaboration between the university and the greater Ithaca community in a virtual gala on November 19. Joel M. Malina, Cornell University Vice President for University Relations, hosted the event.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Martha E. Pollack, President of Cornell University, extended her thanks and discussed the importance of community and campus partnerships.

“One of the things I love about Cornell is that even though we’re an Ivy League, we’re never an ivory tower,” Pollack said. “Our community is intimately connected to the communities around us. Cornell and local communities are not just shared—we are constantly shaping each other in ways that make us both stronger.”

Malina presented TOGO Partnership Awards to:

  • Amy OrganicsCornell Centers AgriTech;
  • Tompkins Mutual Aid, a volunteer resource sharing network, and Max Zhang, professor of engineering in the College of Engineering, and his students; And the
  • Groundswil Center for Local Food and Agriculture And trainee Bianca Garcia, 23.

Emmy’s Organics, which sells gluten-free foods nationwide, has worked with Cornell AgriTech’s Food Venture Center and Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture to develop and improve products, improve processes, and find local partners. In turn, the company introduced new product ideas to students in the AgriTech master course in Food Science, giving them the opportunity to be mentored as they took product ideas from concept to formula development.

The award was presented to Ian Gaffney, Emmy co-founder; His team and AgriTech employees: Olga Padilla-Zakor, Bruno Xavier, Cynthia James, Shannon Bruzeler, Elizabeth Sullivan, Roger Morse, George Howick and Robert Martin.

Mutual Aid Tompkins and Zhang and students were recognized in the 2022 spring semester “Introduction to the Internet of Things – Technology and Sharing” for their collaboration. Students and teacher assistants designed and installed a “smart scale” in one of Mutual Aid Tompkins’ many blue food lockers around Tompkins and Cortland counties; Libra notifies the volunteer network when the locker is empty and supplies are needed. The project was extended beyond the classroom to maintain engagement with Mutual Aid Tompkins throughout the year through an amalgamated IoT project team funded by the Shen Social Impact Fund at Cornell Engineering.

A student inspects an outdoor food pantry.

Linden A. said: Archer, Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering in the College of Engineering. “In addition, through their work on the project, our students learned more about issues in our county, from food insecurity to homelessness and underlying issues of mental health and substance abuse.”

The award was presented to Teresa Fulton and the Mutual Aid Tompkins Network plus Zhang, teaching assistants Haomiao Wang MS ’22 and Alex Coy ’21, and students Jerry Jin ’23, Canwen Zhang ’23, LM Nawrocki ’23, Felipe Santamaria ’23 and Alfredo Alberto Rodriguez , MS ’22.

Also awarded the TOGO Award are the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit organization that empowers people of diverse backgrounds to build a fairer and more sustainable food system, and intern Bianca Garcia ’23, an undergraduate scholar at Harrison College with an additional major in Anthropology and minors in Nutrition, Science, and Technology Studies .

Garcia spent the summer doing farm work and asking the question, “What is the power of food to heal?” She conducted interviews at Groundswell to explore the principles and practices of restorative justice cultivation. She sought answers through interdisciplinary communications and action research linking nutrition, food production, mental and physical health, and cultural identity. She continued her interviews throughout Tompkins and surrounding counties and engages with nonprofit organizations and other local farmers.

Juliana Quaresma, Executive Director of Groundswell, and Garcia accepted the award.

The second half of the event honored 19 inspiring and influential community leaders who have retired or will soon be retiring, each receiving TOGO awards:

  • Rob Ainslie, member of the Ithaca School District Board of Education;
  • Dan Brown, CEO of Racker;
  • James Brown, President and CEO, United Way of Tompkins County;
  • Kathy Covert, writer, Tompkins County Legislature;
  • Barbara Ekstrom, Tompkins County Director of Recycling and Materials Management;
  • Margherita Fabrizio, Director of the Carol Tatcon Center;
  • Marie Fessenden, director of the Cornell Cinema;
  • Julie Holcombe, writer, Ithaca City;
  • Dwight Machete, planner, Tompkins County Transportation;
  • Simon Moll, Lansing Village Trustee;
  • Svante Merrick, Mayor of Ithaca;
  • Ben Nelson, chief of the Groton Fire Department;
  • Andy Noel, Director of Cornell University Athletics;
  • Jan Nierop, Director, AgriTech;
  • Dave Bronte, Executive Director of Ancillary Services, Ithaca College;
  • Susan Smith Jablonski, Executive Director of the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation;
  • Randy Smith, Trustee, Lansing Village;
  • Rick Snyder, Chief Financial Officer, Tompkins County;
  • John Turner, Vice President of Public Relations, Cayuga Health System.

The event’s final honors went to Henry Granison, a former member of the Tompkins County Legislature, who died in November.

“This beloved husband, father, and friend was a natural leader, thinker, and doer,” said Susan Riley, deputy director of community relations at Cornell. “Often ahead of the curve, but always leading with love and inclusion.” A painting will be presented to Granison’s wife, Mary Beth Grant, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Care and Crisis Services Team, and their two daughters, Charlotte Granison and Samantha Granison.

A recording of the TOGO event will be posted to Cornell’s Community Relations website in the coming days.

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