F&M, Lancaster Community Celebrate National 'Food Day'

  • Students prepare grilled cheese sandwiches and soup at the Fair Trade Cafe during Food Day Oct. 24. (Photo by Tim Brixius)

By Danielle Weiner '13

More than 300 Franklin & Marshall students, faculty, staff and community members sampled locally grown food, tested their cooking skills and discussed the benefits of shopping close to home as part of a local celebration of "Food Day," a national movement to raise awareness about healthy, affordable and sustainable food.

On campus and throughout the community, local-food enthusiasts participated in activities revolving around food on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Activities on campus included F&M's weekly Fair Trade Café, in which students and faculty were served grilled cheese sandwiches and soups made from local, organic foods; a screening of "We Feed the World," a documentary by Australian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer about food and globalization; and a standing-room-only "Invasive Species Cooking Workshop," in which participants learned to cook tasty dishes with non-native plants while at the same time ridding their yards of the sometimes harmful vegetation. Off-campus activities included cooking and shopping workshops and a fresh foods potluck.

F&M was among more than 270 colleges and universities nationally participating in Food Day 2012, which was created by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest and is observed annually in an effort to address worldwide issues such as health and nutrition, hunger and agricultural policy.

"We had around 50 students actively involved behind the scenes," said Linda Aleci, an associate professor of art history who helped organize the College events. "To me, that is a critical indicator of motivation and commitment to the issues of healthy, affordable, accessible and fairly traded food."

A collaboration of the College and several community organizations, Lancaster Food Day 2012 was intended to raise public awareness about the city's food and health environment. Event organizers included F&M's Joseph International Center, Bonchek College House, Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment and Environmental Action Alliance, along with community organizations such as Lancaster General Health, Lighten Up Lancaster and Eat Well Lancaster County.

Sarah McGahran '13, the head student organizer of the event, said Food Day helped to draw attention to the importance of buying and consuming locally grown food, to save on the costs of transporting the food and to support the local economy — a topic about which students were enthusiastic.

"National Food Day fostered a student-led discussion where we were able to hear about student goals and provide more food access to our students from the local Lancaster community," McGahran said.

The event also brought the College and the community together, Aleci said.

"Because this was a citywide event, for me the significant moments revolved around collaboration and partnership across many constituents and audiences — people working in public health, sustainable agriculture, professors, students, community activists and more," she said.

Leah Kelsen '13, a sociology major who attended the Fair Trade Café, said recognizing Food Day was a great way to heighten awareness of issues surrounding the distribution and consumption of foods at the College and in the community.

"It gives us an opportunity to try locally grown foods and support the Lancaster community," she said, noting that the event also "educates us to eat healthy foods."

Emma Feinstein '14, a government major who attended the movie screening, said she was interested in learning more about food choices.

"I have always been interested in the production of food and why certain cultures eat various foods," Feinstein said. 

Olivia Gell '13, an English and sociology double major who attended a sustainable dinner at Bonchek College House as part of Food Day, said before the dinner she was looking forward to the "delicious food" but also to connecting with others over a meal. Student chefs at Brooks and Bonchek College houses cooked for the event, and about 30 students, faculty members, and public health professionals from Lancaster General Health came together for a conversation about food.

"Celebrating Food Day is important because we all have become so distant from our food," Gell said. "This gives people an opportunity to learn about our food system, how it has changed, and gives people the opportunity to reconnect with others through food."

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