Thursday, February 26, 2009

Northeast Real Food Summit-2009

This past weekend 8 members of SFBU joined over 300 college and high school students from more than 60 northeastern schools to learn, network and stratagize around food justice at The Real Food Summit in Amherst. The Northeast summit was one of 5 regional summits organized by the "Real Food Challenge" which is a project of The Food Project, the California Student Sustainability Coalition, and their partners. We joined other like-minded students to brainstorm new ways to get fresh food in dining halls, more campus gardens, or more critical food-related curricula, making our schools invest in healthy, community-based, fair, and environmentally sound food for all.

“Our food system affects the future of our country, from health to climate change to the economy,” says Anim Steel, Director of National Programs at The Food Project, and co-coordinator of the Real Food Challenge. Our current food system is like the Titanic. We have a huge system that's chugging along, but where is it going? We're headed towards a huge iceberg that includes the global food crisis and climate change. But like the Titanic, all it takes it a small part of the system, a rudder as such, to turn this ship around.The Real Food Challenge has set an ambitious national target for colleges and universities to meet: purchase 20% “real food” by 2020. Led by students themselves, the campaign believes that with collaboration, commitment, and collective action, it will be possible to turn around the university food service industry. Students have the potential to be a huge driving force, and not just consumers of Real Food. 4 Billion Dollars a year are spent for food in dining halls, which means we have a huge buying power, and the potential to turn this ship away from the iceberg. As Anim said, “The younger generation has the largest stake in the future, so they should have the loudest voice in shaping our food system. That’s what this summit is about.”

Workshops included "Building Food IQ and Sharpening Your Sound Bytes" by Dr. Susan Rubin, the founder of Better School Food, during which students learned, among other things, that the sweetener high-fructose corn commonly found in commercial foods has been indicated to be contaminated with mercury. Suggested reads included The End of Food by Paul Roberts and recommended movies included The Real Dirt on Farmer John and F.L.O.W.. Meanwhile, students discussed The Farm Bill and the Northeast with Simmons faculty member and NESAWG consultant Larry Dixon. Although improvements to the Farm Bill can always be made, students recognized some of the positive changes in the U.S.- including the transition of the Food Stamp Program to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Dixon explained the provisions within the Farm Bill, such as value added grants, which students can utilize in order to get Real Food to their dining halls and gardens on their campuses. Though the Farm Bill has been passed for the next five years, there is room for on-going input in terms of where funding from the bill is allocated. NESAWG, the North East Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, is attempting to make funding more accessible by providing support and educational resources regarding the Farm Bill, which can be especially beneficial for university students who want to see change on their campus but might need funding to make it happen.

As well as attending other groups' workshops, Slow Food BU was asked to participate in a workshop held by Julia Middleton, Director of Youth Programs for Slow Food USA. Doing so provided us with the opportunity to share with other Slow Food members and would-be members our own ideas about running a successful Slow Food On Campus chapter, as well as to learn about the exciting things that other SFOC chapters have been doing.

Despite the Summit ending early due to the impending snow, it was a great success and lots of fun! Thanks to all who came from BU and a BIG thanks to the RFC organizers!

1 comment:

imee said...

This is the first I've heard of The Real Food Summit. I think it's a really good idea though. I'd have to let my community know about this so we can have a similar program as well.

- Imee