Sara Menker and Gro Intelligence Are Tackling Global Hunger Together
Sara Menker is a professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a research associate at Global Food Policy Coalition. In her spare time, she runs a weekly food-fuel economy group in Milwaukee. Gro Intelligence is a new organization focused on the intersection of food security and energy security.
How did you get into studying, and then entering, the world of energy and energy policy?
I was born in Wisconsin, and have been living here for most of my life. When I was in high school, I studied geography for a year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The only thing I was interested in was geology. After college, I had to choose between geography, which I loved and knew was going to be my major, or forestry. I chose geography.
I was teaching high school geometry when I got a job at a nonprofit organization called the International Studies Program in Washington, D.C. We were running a geography program. It was run completely through a geographic information systems program—the technology was based on the National Geodetic Survey. I was working on this program for the first time, so I thought, “Well, I’m going to put my heart into that.”
I ended up getting my master’s degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Geography taught me that geography is about understanding things on the ground, so I thought we should do that in energy policy.
I was very interested in political geography. People are so interested in the relationship between energy and food in societies. It seems like there’s an energy and food crisis in most of the world. And often, the solutions are actually political and structural—they come from the bottom up. Political geography is the field that helps us see that relationship.
I ended up getting my master’s degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Geography taught me that geography is about understanding things on the ground, so