Juliet Bluemling practices what she preaches, and as a result, her exploration has lead her to be the first ever graduate of the UNH Eco-Gastronomy program. As history repeatedly bears out, “being first” usually requires overcoming challenges, blazing new trails and perhaps most importantly a commitment to some vision of a better world. Juliet’s journey has been powered by her passion for sustainability.
Originally arriving at UNH to study in the Hospitality program, Juliet knew that she “wanted to be in charge of making people happy through food”. However, she wasn’t 100% prepared for the rigors of the Whittemore School of Business and Economics (WSBE). Her struggles led her to seek the advice of Professor Raymond Goodman. She didn’t just march into his office and expect him to give her all the answers; instead she marched into his office with a question: “How can I be more proactive about my studies?”
After about 2 hours of discussing her interest in food and sustainability, the idea of pursuing Eco-gastronomy emerged. Eventually, this led Juliet to travel to Florence, Italy to pursue studies at the University of Florence. Living in the capital city of the storied Tuscany region of Italy exposed Juliet to amazing food, but more importantly to fabulous markets; full of fresh locally farmed and harvested products. Juliet says that the time she spent in Florence really opened her eyes to the importance of people being closely connected with their food.
Upon returning to UNH, Juliet sought out more opportunities for herself. She soon landed an internship at UNH’s Office of Sustainability working on local procurement and purchasing. Working closely with Assistant Director of Dining Services, Richard MacDonald, Juliet created and implemented strategies through which the university could form a more sustainable relationship with local food producers.
In the fall of 2008, Juliet took on her next major project – the “$3.13 a Day Challenge”. In an effort to raise awareness about the connection between food and poverty, the university’s Discovery Program wanted to give students the opportunity to experience the average allotment of the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (formerly the Food-Stamps program). At face value this seems like a fairly simple undertaking. Closer examination reveals otherwise. The task of figuring out the price per serving of the dining facility’s numerous offerings fell to Juliet. She painstakingly priced out all the ingredients and was ultimately able to estimate a per-serving cost. Considering the thousands of meals and variety of menu offerings available in UNH dining halls – this was no small feat.
Juliet will be graduating in May as UNH’s first Eco-gastronomy major (a program that has now become a regular offering, partnering UNH with University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy). She credits her “trailblazer” status to her parents, for instilling in her a love for food and to her group of friends who have encouraged her to try things she never would have otherwise. While at UNH, Juliet participated in the Outing Club, was the program coordinator for the Jewish student organization Hillel and volunteered at Durham community dinners, realizing her purpose for originally coming to UNH: “being in charge of making people happy through food.”
When making predictions about her future, Juliet sees herself organizing events that raise awareness about the organic movement. She wants to be a liaison between community local agriculture and big industry. Owning land, farming and surrounding herself with people who will continue to challenge her to explore her discomfort is a given.