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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Kate Smith

Photo contributed by Kate Smith.

Kate Smith `21 has always loved to learn. In fact, that’s what attracted her to Grinnell in the first place. “My parents were educators,” said Smith. ‘’And growing up I was just so curious about everything and obsessed with learning.” It was the interdisciplinary nature that Smith found so appealing. In a nature familiar to so many other Grinnellians, Smith was simply interested in too much.

By the end of her second year, however, she had decided on anthropology, a discipline she described as having a little bit of everything she was interested in. Later, Smith decided to add a technology studies concentration, hoping that the two of these disciplines would eventually help her do what she ultimately wanted: to work for a better, more sustainable world.

For Smith, part of living sustainably is being conscious of where your food is coming from, and, ultimately, where it ends up. Although Smith is constantly considering food waste and scarcity in her academic studies, her interest ultimately was the result of a lifelong interest in cooking.

According to Smith, her family, since they lived in sunny Southern California, often was able to eat fruits and vegetables grown locally by their neighbors. One night, in an effort to avoid going to her brother’s football game, 12-year-old Smith spotted something that piqued her interest: eggplant.

“’I thought, ‘What are these?’,” said Smith. “I had never cooked them before and I was bored, so I opened up ‘The Joy of Cooking’ and found a recipe for ratatouille. I had heard of it from the movie, and we had all the ingredients so all of a sudden I was just following the recipe.”

From that point on, Smith knew she wanted to take a more hands-on approach to her involvement in food sustainability. During her third year, Smith took this a step farther, going abroad for two consecutive semesters, first at Grinnell in London and then working directly with food production in Italy.

“When I was in London, I found myself working for a company that uses AI to help restaurants become more sustainable,” said Smith. “And I loved it because it was an application of technology that’s actively helping people. I loved the mission of the company.”

That following spring, Smith spent her time in central Italy working directly with farms and factories, learning more concretely about the food pathways that wine, olive oil and other food products take, especially in comparison to the U.S.

According to Smith, the Anthropology of Food class she took in Italy, along with a printmaking class on campus, were some of the best academic experiences she had during her four years.

After graduation, Smith will start working in the marketing division of a tech company called Text IQ (which she heard about from another Grinnell alum). As for now, Smith spends her days in the Grinnell College Garden, cooking up surprisingly delicious cabbage recipes and with her housemates and friends.

“This year definitely wasn’t what we expected,” said Smith, “but it’s been nice to spend the time together. We were talking the other day about how normally we wouldn’t have spent that much time in this house together because we would have been on campus or studying, and [the house] would have maybe been just kind of a passing through place, but I think now it’s become a home.”

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