Kat Furey: The Food Fighter
Hey Stony Brook!
In my quest to track down and find the most awesome of all the awesome Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program alums, students, and professors to interview, this week I bring to you a more nontraditional student-now-graduate who is working hard to help transform the way in which people choose, obtain, and eat food.
I bring you…
Kathleen (Kat) Furey!
On one recent evening (6:30pm California time, 9:30 E.S.T.), I spoke with Kat on the phone at length…our conversation was about an hour and a half…and we could have kept going for hours more! We discussed GMOs and their implications on human and environmental health, as well as Kat’s past and future goals. Highlights from my initial interview with Ms. Furey follow:
Erica Cirino: Good evening! Alright, so standard question here: Major? Minor?
Kat Furey: I didn’t have a minor in the Sustainability Studies Program, but my major was Environmental Humanities, with a concentration in food sovereignty, studies, and policy.
EC: Though many of our readers may have not met you, you are a non-traditional student, am I correct?
KF: That’s right; I’m a baby-boomer! I had been long enjoying a fun and successful career in the entertainment industry…but the twists and turns of life led me from California to Long Island, specifically, Southampton. I heard incredible things about Stony Brook Southampton, so I decided to follow my heart to help people and the planet…I enrolled, with the encouragement of friends and loved ones…and I got in!
EC: Great! We do have many students like yourself currently attending classes at the University. What inspired you to enroll in the Sustainability Studies Program in particular?
KF: During my first semester at Stony Brook Southampton, I was a little shy, I wasn’t used to taking classes at a University. But, I made friends quickly, and became so excited by the important topics we were learning about: fracking (which I had never heard of before), urban development, coal, nuclear power, food… I heard about the Environmental Humanities major from former Stony Brook Professor Heather Dune Macadam. It was truly a perfect fit for me. When the Southampton Campus closed, I came to West Campus for two more years to finish my degree.
EC: We all have to eat, but what made food so important to you?
KF: As a child, I grew up in Ohio in farm country: you would go to one farmer for cheese and milk, another for your grains, another for fruit, another for vegetables, another for meat…I would literally walk outside and watch the farmers plough, then seed, then tend to and harvest their fields. My mother would cook such healthy, balanced meals with wholesome ingredients… The foods that most Americans eat today are VERY different from those that I was exposed to in my youth. These foods are literally making people sick! And they are horrible for the environment.
EC: I know the implications of that first-hand, as one who suffers from adult-onset food allergies! And the culprit; probably GMOs. You have certainly accomplished a lot in the area of GMOs since you graduated in 2012. Could you give us a description of where you are now? And where do you hope to be?
KF: Certainly. Just a few hours ago, in fact, I was appointed to the position of Education and Media Director of the Label GMOs California Grassroots (the National Labeling Coalition)! In addition, I serve as the Education and Media Director of GMO Free NY. Besides just GMOs, I am working as Senior Media Producer at Augustwolf Productions, a California-based media production group, helping head up their “Energize Schools” statewide [California] campaign. You can even see a promo film clip about the campaign, in which I am featured. It’s all very exciting! My mission in life is to make the world a cleaner, healthier, and happier place for generations to come.
EC: Congrats on the new job! We are so proud of your accomplishments here at Stony Brook! If you have anything to say to students now enrolled in the Sustainability Studies Program, and Stony Brook students more generally, what would you tell them?
KF: Where do I begin? Well, first off, communicate with your professors: they are such a caring, creative, and intelligent bunch! Think of your professors as your allies; they can help lead you to where you want to be. For instance, when I was enrolled in the program, I did an independent study with Dr. Quigley in my third year for two semesters with Plate to Politics…I also got to do research for Jeff Smith’s film “Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives” (my name’s in the credits!). Also, contact the companies and people you want to work with; it will pay off if you are persistent enough.
EC: I am loving your energy! Thank you for the fantastic discussion! Any last words of advice?
KF: Yeah. Go for what you really freaking want…and you can get it!
Kathleen Furey is currently Director of Education and Media for Label GMOs California Grassroots Coalition and GMO Free NY. She also works as Senior Media Producer at Augustwolf Productions.
Kat, I would say you have earned #supergreenstatus. Way to represent your fellow Seawolves!
peace. love. run.
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