Using School Lunch As a Tool To Fight Climate Change

Meet environmental studies–political science major Hayden Hendersen ’20.

September 3, 2020

Major: Environmental studies–political science 

Hometown: Raymond, Wisconsin

Thesis advisor: Prof. Chris Koski

Thesis: Implementation Strategies for a Plant-Based School Lunch Program Policy as a Climate Change Mitigation Effort

What it’s about: Eating more plant-based food can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. How could a school start serving vegan meals to reduce its food-print? Funding, menu design, sampling, kitchen equipment, and even super-cool lunch ladies would need to be some of the implementation tools.

What it’s really about: How do you get schools to serve plants and kids to eat them?

In high school: My “senior superlatives” were “biggest overachiever” and “worst dancer,” so I worked a bit too hard at the expense of letting loose. Even then, I respected that my fulfillment and fun come from a deep dedication to learning and making change.

Influential professors and classes: Ontological Politics with Prof. LaShandra Sullivan [anthropology] and Decentering the Human with Prof. Christian Kroll [Spanish]. Both classes and professors legitimized my interests in conceptualizing interspecies relationships as meaningful academic study.

Influential book: How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human by Eduardo Kohn.

Concept that blew my mind: The interconnectedness of each so-called individual and species, and subject and object, and machine and human, dissipates boundaries and creates cultures and worlds.

Cool stuff: I cocreated the Reed Recycling Center, served on the Sustainability Committee, and helped establish a full-time sustainability coordinator role. I helped establish the pollinator garden in the orchard, cooked for 40+ students for five different semesters while hosting the Cascade Climate Network conference. I perfected a veggie burger recipe, which I regularly grilled up for 200+ students in the canyon, on the Great Lawn, or in the Quad. I taught third graders to make mac and cheese from potatoes, carrots, and nutritional yeast, lived in the Farm House, was a Greenboard leader, and Infoshop manager.

Awards, fellowships, grants: I received the Environmental Studies Summer Experience Fellowship to write a Reed climate action plan and was in the final round of interviews for the Bon Appetit Sustainability Fellowship. (The hiring was paused due to COVID-19.)

Challenges I faced: I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, endometriosis, IBS, and migraines while at Reed. I’ve had to manage all my appointments, recover from surgeries and procedures, and have time to feel sick, sleep, and take care of myself, all while working on- and off-campus jobs AND doing Reed.

How Reed changed me: My own health journey has taught me how to be a better and more empathetic advocate, whether for myself or the planet. I have learned to ask for help and be simultaneously direct and polite when working with others towards change, and listen much more than talk in class.

What’s next: I am attending Portland State University for a master’s degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education and a master’s certificate in Sustainable Food Systems to prepare for a career in sustainable school garden and management.