Scripps Professor Applies to Expand Incarcerate Justice Program

As part of Scripps professor Nancy Neiman Auerbach’s Political Economy of Food class, students participate in an internship to partner with formerly incarcerated women to make and sell artisanal food products. With Auerbach’s application for a $100,000 grant, the program may expand to fund a co-op for entrepreneurial education for formerly incarcerated women. 

The internship program is through Crossroads,
Inc., a home in Claremont where formerly incarcerated women live for six months
and learn skills such as business and money management, community building, cooking
and gardening. The women of Crossroads collaborate with students in hand-making
and selling artisanal seasonal food products through Fallen Fruit from Rising
Women, a food justice program focused on social entrepreneurship and spearheaded by Auerbach. 

“What’s exciting about women starting their own businesses, and particularly these women and these students, is that they’re a group of people already committed to a social justice vision,” Auerbach said. 

The familiar orange jugs of minted lemonade that often appear at Scripps afternoon tea and other events come from Fallen
Fruit from Rising Women. In
addition to lemonade, granola and preserves are also available at Mallott as
well as the Motley Coffeehouse.

Fallen Fruit from Rising Women is unique in its emphasis on homemade and organic products. All of the fruit used in the co-op’s products is donated from
local gardens, ensuring that every product is strictly seasonal. The use of
store-bought ingredients is also limited; the women even derive their own
pectin for making the jams and preserves.

The women of Crossroads and students also sell their wares at the local farmers market. Last week alone, the group made $700. 

All of the profit generated from Fallen Fruit from Rising
Women products goes directly back to the women at Crossroads, but perhaps more important
to the success of the enterprise is the program’s emphasis on community-building.
The women of Crossroads and the student interns learn together as they work in
the kitchen. In addition to mastering practical entrepreneurial and business skills,
participants gain knowledge and new perspectives through working with former inmates—individuals with whom they may not interact with in such depth otherwise. 

For Kate Restaino SC ’16, this very focus on creating relationships drew her to the internship. 

“I’m not doing EA; I’m
not doing politics, like the majority of the people in the class,” Restaino said. “But
I’d heard such great things. Everyone says that working with the Crossroads
women is amazing, so I kind of went in for that, instead of the making food.”

In order to increase the scope of what Fallen Fruit from Rising
Women can do, Auerbach has applied for a grant of $100,000 from the county of
Los Angeles through the LA2050 initiative. The initiative is primarily backed by
the Goldhirsch foundation, a group committed to spending $1,000,000 towards programs that will positively impact how L.A. County
evolves in the next 40 years. 

A program can win the grant either by garnering
the most votes online or by being voted the best by a jury that reviews the
projects. Voting ran from Sept. 2 to Sept. 16, and the process is now in the
tallying phase until the winner is announced by Sept. 30.

If Fallen Fruit from Rising Women wins the grant, Auerbach aims
to implement a co-op for Crossroads graduates and a Social Entrepreneurs
Academy, which will operate with the participation of Claremont Colleges
faculty and students. The goal is “to provide job opportunities for women on parole, build social
capital and business literacy skills, and encourage collaboration and community
building,” according to the campaign site.

Crossroads graduates
would be able to join the co-op as owner-employees, where Auerbach says that they
can “give time to social enterprise and also be able to engage in democratic
governance.”

While Auerbach aims to increase the profits from the sale of Fallen Fruit From Rising Women’s goods, the creation of a co-op model would provide women with the skills
they need for entrepreneurship. In expanding the project, Auerbach has a vision for the future
that extends beyond the year 2050.

For Auerbach, this project is about changing the structure of
capitalism to a more democratic and just way of doing things. 

“If it’s not,
it’s not worth doing,” she said.

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