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Dr. Menck [Center] receives here Innovative ETD Award from the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations NDLTD at their annual conference, 2012 in Peru. Image : . Award Acceptance speech above.

Dr. Menck is a 2012 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University


New Orleans, food, meaning-making, crisis, diaster, resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, food industry, ethnography, participatory action research, food assessment, civic groups, leadership, sustainability, food systems, civic agriculture, culinary history, PhD in Leadership and Change

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In 2005 the city of New Orleans experienced catastrophic flooding as a result of the failure of the federal levee system following Hurricane Katrina. This was an immediate disaster that evolved into a longer-term crisis as the city, state, and national government struggled to respond to the event. This study focuses on one part of managing crisis: meaning making. Specifically, the study investigates meaning making within the food community of New Orleans, asking the questions: is food a way for individuals and groups to make meaning following critical change events such as the failure of the federal levee system in New Orleans, and if so, how? It employs tools of ethnographic inquiry and participatory action research, such as: case study, interviews, field notes, photography, recipes, and multiple media, to suggest an approach to investigating meaning making within food systems affected by critical change events. The sample of the study draws on a wide spectrum of experience and perspective on food in the region. This spectrum ranges from restaurateurs and others who go back multiple generations in the New Orleans food community and new comers, including two groups of recent immigrants. This study finds that despite these differences, there are four common discourses that leaders and others in this community use to think and talk about food in relationship to critical change: culture, ecology, economics, and politics. The study embodies an approach that goes beyond the dominant nutrition versus culture paradigm. The discourses this study reports, may serve as a framework for investigating the meaning of food in other locales and contexts of change. Finally, this study illustrates the emergence of formal and informal leadership in the face of critical change. In this way, the study moves beyond the dominant attention given to people in formal positions of authority to focus on the leadership of people in their resolve to make meaning out of crisis. This dissertation integrates multiple media to express data and findings, and is accompanied by twenty-six embedded audio files. The electronic version of the Dissertation is accessible in the open-access OhioLink ETD Center,


In 2012 this dissertation won the Innovative ETD [Electronic Thesis and Dissertation] award from the international organization, The Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations. The award acceptance in 2012 in Peru is shown above. The dissertation is accompanied by 26 audio files, including author's abstract which are attached below. Dr. Menck is an international award winning chef, restaurateur, and scholar. Her website is

Abstract.mp3 (1176 kB)
Author's Audio Abstract

Track_4.1.mp3 (1270 kB)
Pete Gerica Talks About Being Born a Fisherman

Track_4.2.mp3 (1097 kB)
Al Sunseri Talks About Getting into the Oyster Business

Track_4.3.mp3 (2050 kB)
Al Sunseri Talks About Passing on His Business to His Son

Track_4.4.mp3 (2895 kB)
Kathia Duran Explains Why She Started the Latino Farmers Coop

Track_4.5.mp3 (2000 kB)
Kathia Duran Tells the Story of Finding the O.C. Haley Garden Space

Track_4.6.mp3 (2120 kB)
Pete Gerica Talks About Watching Environmental Decline

Track_4.7.mp3 (1782 kB)
George Ingmire Talks About the Similarities Between Voodoo and New Orleans Food Rituals

Track_4.8.mp3 (1557 kB)
Ti Martin Talks About Food Traditions Being “in the Blood”

Track_4.9.mp3 (2202 kB)
TJenga Mwendo Talks About African-American Heritage and Slavery

Track_4.10.mp3 (2871 kB)
Liz Williams Talks About Fast Food in New Orleans

Track_4.11.mp3 (849 kB)
George Ingmire Talks About the Futility of Fast Food in New Orleans

Track_5.1.mp3 (1968 kB)
Pete Gerica Explains How His Distribution Network Works

Track_5.2.mp3 (1887 kB)
Al Sunseri Talks About His Son’s Future in the Oyster Business

Track_5.3.mp3 (3012 kB)
Darlene Wolnick Talks About How the Market System Works

Track_5.4.mp3 (1642 kB)
Judy Walker Talks About Making Groceries After Hurricane Katrina

Track_5.5.mp3 (1262 kB)
Paul Baricose Explains the Economics of Making Soil

Track_5.6.mp3 (2157 kB)
Nat Turner Explains How Relationships Facilitate Economic Growth

Track_6.1.mp3 (1736 kB)
Father Vien Explains Food Heritage of the Vietnamese in New Orleans

Track_6.2.mp3 (3553 kB)
Father Vien Recites the Recipe for Simmering Fish

Track_6.3.mp3 (4129 kB)
Al Sunseri Explains the Regulatory System for Oysters

Track_6.4.mp3 (2048 kB)
Kathia Duran Talks About Finding Entry into the New Orleans Non-Profit Community

Track_6.6.mp3 (3093 kB)
Brennan Dougherty Explains How Irrationality Builds Relationship

Track_7.1.mp3 (6293 kB)
Jim Funk Explains how the LRA Responded after Hurricane Katrina

Track_7.2.mp3 (3431 kB)
Ti Martin Explains How the Hospitality Industry Responded to the BP Oil Spill

Track_7.3.mp3 (3215 kB)
Brennan Dougherty Talks About Farming and Spirituality

Track_6.5.mp3 (3078 kB)