Lashaun Jackson

STUDENT – SCANN, Graham Sustainability Scholar, MDining Sustainability and Community Engagement Intern, UM Sustainable Food Program, and member of the Maize & Blue Cupboard Student Advisory Council

“For me, that first year in college was [during COVID]…all virtual. At the time, I was really interested in astronomy and astrophysics, actually, [but] my introduction to astronomy wasn’t as intriguing as it could’ve been…So when I decided to take a break from astronomy, I knew I did have an interest in the environment. I [had taken] an AP environmental class my junior year of high school that really stuck with me and I thought was really important. It was very different from other classes that I was taking in high school in the sense that it was literally the real world: real-world application, real-world solutions, how do we solve really tough things like climate change, like waste reduction, like behavior change. It was very engaging in a sense that…what you learned in class, you could directly apply to your outside world. When I was doing calculus, it was like, I’m not doing this outside of calculus class, [it’s just] one hour, one part of the day, but with the environment, I was like, oh, I see this happening in my neighborhood, I see this when I’m driving my car. This is the material impact that I’m having on the world. 

My sophomore year [I joined] this volunteer organization advocating for the campus to go single use plastic free. My role in that group was to reach out to administrators who seemed like they would have decision making power to change procurement procedures. I ended up reaching out to Keith Soster, [who] is the director of student engagement for MDining, [and while he didn’t have that administrative power] he was like, ‘I enjoy the fact that you’re in this work, you should be an intern for me,’ [and] I was like, ‘okay, cool.’ So I’m still an intern for him, for the sustainability dining experience. And through that, since [Maize & Blue Cupboard] falls under Dining, I really got involved with the cupboard. 

Personally, my academic pathway [now] is really about just and sustainable food systems.  And a part of that, for me, is food insecurity and addressing that. I’m also really interested in the social side of that – how to destigmatize it. I think, last time I checked, it was a third of Michigan undergrads [that] are financially, technically food insecure, and half of all graduate students [that] are technically [food insecure] which is insane and speaks to the immense barriers of tuition that get in the way of food access. Also, the fact that we do live in a [food] desert like Target is the most central thing. [It’s] really unfortunate, but either way, [in] addressing that, Keith introduced me to this council called the Student Action Advisory Council for the Maize & Blue Cupboard, where its goal is to promote the mission of the cupboard. Reach out and number one just make it known that this is a resource for students, and then to improve that shopper experience. 

So within that, that’s destigmatizing food insecurity, that’s offering new and more diverse food options for students. That’s recipe making, because I know a lot of perishables are kind of like, how do I make things with pinto beans, especially within a dorm? So I’ve been really interested in that. It’s hard for sure. It’s a culture shift that I’m really focused on. How can we frame food more as a right than just something that, you know, I sometimes maybe can get? How do we encourage people to ask for help? How do we encourage people? And then also,  even deeper than that, I think those are just band-aid solutions. I think that’s very much [like] let’s just pragmatically get people fed right now, [but] what are the systemic issues that underlie the fact that so many students are food insecure? And through advocacy, one of our goals next semester is to tackle that.

“I feel like enough people believe that [climate change] is real for there to be substantial policymaking in that direction. I guess, [beyond that] what I just want to get everyone on board about – it’s gonna sound cheesy – but just the magic of this planet. I want people to get on board with the idea that nothing is inevitable. And we, as just humans on a floating rock, should recognize more that we’re on a floating rock, and that it’s amazing that we’re here to begin with, taking in and having that sort of gratitude mindset and presence.  I think if everyone can get on board with that, we’ll just help people make decisions that come from care and love more. I think through that, that’s how our behavior changes. That’s how we [change] how we show up in spaces and how we…I don’t know how to explain it [except that] if we all are grateful for where we are, we’re all gonna be more inclined to take care of it.

We’re all connected and yeah, maybe you think that your one action is nothing compared to the cumulative actions of everyone else. But it does [matter] –  your behavior radiates [out from] you. You have a lot more influence than you think you do. Nothing is inevitable. Just because we’re born into these capitalistic extractive systems doesn’t mean we have to die in them, too. So yeah, just care. The world will heal. I’m hopeful that I will continue to find spaces and be in spaces where there is that love and care. I’m hopeful that those spaces will continue to fuel me to do this work, as well as inspire others to do this work. I’m hopeful that there will be more care in the future. That’s not material as far as you know, like, reducing your carbon footprint but I [think it’s important].

I think I’ve [also] realized through this work, through working with administration and people of other generations, that [with] a lot of people in older generations, sustainability can sometimes be seen as a pillar or a silo. As its own topic, its own objective. Whereas I feel like sustainability is actually everything. Between the social, how we interact with people, and the physical environment that we’re in – that literally encompasses everything. And that sustainability isn’t always about metrics. It’s not always about innovation and ‘how can we go green in this space? How can we get these numbers down? It’s also about ‘how are people being treated?’ How are we living in this world? And so I think [we need to] see sustainability as the foundation of everything, an underpinning, a running theme, a through line…Then that’s how we start to make better choices and how we start to understand things differently.”

As part of the LSA Year of Sustainability, LSA Dean’s Fellow Cherish Dean sat down with a range of students, staff, and faculty across the University to illustrate the various relationships people across campus already have to this work, to showcase ways people can get involved, and to highlight the reasons that this work should matter.

To view an abbreviated transcript of Cherish’s full conversation with Lashaun, click here.

Cherish can be reached at To contact the LSA Year of Sustainability Team as a whole, please contact

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