MSP student working with Milwaukee Food Council to fix food system gap  

group photo from data day
Photo source: Data Byte, newsletter by Data You Can Use.

Jessie Thompson is a current UWM School of Nursing Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding (MSP) student. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2021 with a BA in Sustainability and a minor in Urban Planning. While studying there, she studied the intersection of environmentalism and social justice. Jessie has an extensive background in local, sustainable agriculture, and has worked with both Groundwork Milwaukee and the Eco-Justice Center on farms growing produce and caring for farm animals. She has also learned the basics of large-scale hydroponic farming through volunteering at Hundred Acre in Milwaukee. Outside of MSP, Jessie works as a farm worker for Full Circle Healing. She enjoys farming and seeks to understand how urban agriculture can be utilized to foster community building connections. 

“I’ve always had a deep yearning for wanting to understand how the world works and my place within it. I began that process by studying sustainability at Arizona State University Online. Though studying sustainability in undergrad assisted with that exploration, I wanted to dive deeper into my connection with Milwaukee. The MSP program has many amazing connections with Milwaukee organizations and was my entrance into learning more about Milwaukee through the lens of peacebuilding work.” 

Through the MSP program and UW-Extension, Jessie is currently a fellow with the Milwaukee Food Council. She does a variety of work for the food council, but her primary role is being the curator of a food ecosystem map she is working on with the food council Executive Director, Solana Patterson-Ramos. They realized there was a gap in Milwaukee’s food system and have been working on a map to connect these systems. This work with the Milwaukee Food Council led to applying for the 2023 Data Dream Award through Data You Can Use (DYCU), a local organization that helps people access data and make it useful in improving community conditions. 

“Our “Data Dream” is to create a social network map of the pre-existing programs, policies, organizations, and businesses within the complex food system of Milwaukee to determine if they are meeting public need. We seek to facilitate dialogue between organizations doing overlapping work to foster an environment of shared resources and collaboration. We recognize the historical and systemic barriers that have inhibited people in all neighborhoods of Milwaukee easily accessing nutritious, affordable food and intend to leverage organizations mitigating this issue by providing resources and communication to organizations.” 

Jessie and Solana’s work with the Milwaukee Food Council led them to win the People’s Choice Award. They are working on an action plan with DYCU and hope to have the map completed by summer/fall of 2024. 

Interested in learning more about the Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding program? Check out the program page.

Another story with Jessie Thompson: “Storytelling as a research method offers insights into society’s needs” (UWM Report)