Service-Learning Through French Language, Food, and Food Systems

Picking Vegetables at Duke Campus Farms

What better way to learn about food and food systems than through the community?  Manger: Food and Food Systems in the French-Speaking World, taught by Professor Laura Florand was offered for the first time in Fall 2022, and is scheduled to be regularly taught each fall.  The course explored the connections between food, nourishment, friends, family, culture, community, and the local and global food systems.  

Exploring Foodways

FRENCH 308S was offered as a Duke Service-Learning course, and students were actively involved in the community throughout the semester in ways that were integrally connected to their academic work, included using French-language resources.  They explored growing, harvesting, and distributing food through visits to local farmer's markets, volunteering with Duke Campus Farm, a working farm that provides sustainably grown produce, and volunteering with Root Causes, an organization dedicated to combating food insecurity.  They also researched and selected individual volunteer experiences connected to food systems.  These experiences provided opportunities to explore critical issues such as seasonality and local food networks, equity and access, sustainability, food sovereignty, and a variety of economic and environmental issues.

Duke Campus Farms
Vegetables from Duke Campus Farm
FRENCH 308S with Foodshare
Farmer Foodshare


Food, Culture, and Business

Loaf Bakery Workshop
FRENCH 308S workshop at Loaf, a bakery in downtown Durham

Students also explored issues of food, culture, and business by preparing, sampling, and sharing food, as well as through conversations with local business owners, including a local baker, the operators of a Haitian food truck, and two local Senegalese chefs.  They even hosted a cooking event for another Duke class in one of the dorm kitchens, focused on regionalism and food.  A highlight of the course was a workshop at Loaf, a bakery in downtown Durham, where students made bread and talked with the owner about the breadmaking process, his community ties, including local farmers, markets, restaurants, and customers, and the issues involved in running his business.

I think it is necessary to have these types of interactions to complete the terroir and the culinary heritage, because you have to understand what you are eating before you can appreciate it.

C'est cet amour que j'ai ressenti dimanche à la boulangerie Loaf: l'amour de la cuisine, l'amour de leurs clients et l'amour de partager leurs connaissances.


The Nourish Series

In addition to going into the community to learn, students brought members of the community into Duke to learn about food and foodways from local experts.  They hosted two events in the discussion series Nourish: Food, Identity, Community, which was open to the wider Duke and Durham communities.  The discussions were interactive, including conversations with local chefs and nourishers, West African drummers, and of course, food!  Events in the Nourish series included:

Feeding Community:  Public Discussion and Lunch with the Owner-Chefs of Bon Fritay

(October 28, 2022)

For International Creole Day, the students hosted local food truck owners and chefs Andre and Dafney Lafortune, for a community lunch and discussion about their business.  Andre and Dafney, who launched the first Haitian food truck in North Carolina, spoke of their passion for what they do and of the challenges and rewards of creating and running a food truck.  Their roles as food producers have made them central to the Durham community also made them voices of the Haitian community.

Bon Fritay
FRENCH 308S students with Andre and Dafney Lafortune, owners and operators of Bon Fritay, the first Haitian food truck in Durham

For me, the discussion with Dafney and Andre Lafortune was very insightful and enlightening. I had never thought about food trucks and the ecosystem they create in local communities until I took this course (or anything restaurant-related, for that matter).

J’ai beaucoup aimé la discussion de Daphné et André vendredi. C’était très intéressant de voir leur point de vue au sujet de la culture de l’alimentation et comment partager leur histoire haïtienne.


(Re)Creating Home: Public Discussion and Lunch with Local Senegalese Chefs Eric Ndiaye and Papa Assane Mbengue 

(November 9, 2022)

West African Drummers
West African drummers at Senegalese lunch and public discussion

In November, the students hosted another discussion and lunch for the Duke and Durham communities.  The guests were local Senegalese chefs Eric and Quincie Ndiaye and Papa Mbengue.  Chef Eric Ndiaye’s food was offered, and lunch was accompanied by West African drummers, who were invited by Chef Eric. The chefs discussed their roles as nourishers and how that has informed their life trajectories, their connections with their communities of origin, and their ability to create new homes wherever they go.

En général, c'était un joie d'expériencer les liens et relations que la cuisine sénégalaises créent ici à Durham.

Also...the food was amazing! I ate too much, but without regret.


In addition to the support received from Duke Service Learning, this event series and these course activities were made possible with support from the Duke Office of Global Affairs, the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Paletz Innovative Teaching Funds, and the Department of Romance Studies.