September 26, 2013
My friends here can attest that I could talk about food for hours. I am not the world’s best cook, I do not religiously follow celebrity chefs and I am no more of a restaurant snob than most college students. However, get me started on industrial agriculture, community gardens or school lunch programs, and I promise to tell you everything I know.
For me, food goes way beyond what we eat every day; food is a vehicle for social change. It is one of the most universal mediums and that connects people all over the world. Regardless of what background one comes from or how much one cares about environmental issues or economic justice, food is something everyone thinks about at least three times a day.
That is why I am proud to represent the Real Food Challenge. This nation-wide movement unites students in the promotion of food that not only sustains us as consumers, but also supports our planet and the people worldwide who produce the food we eat. The RFC group at Hamilton is part of a campaign to shift over one billion dollars of college and university food-purchasing budgets toward food that is fair, locally-sourced, ecologically sound and humanely produced. We at Hamilton are lucky; we just got back the results from an analysis of Bon Apetit’s invoices and found that we currently purchase 20 percent “real” food, including some varieties of fair trade coffee, cage free eggs and certain locally grown lettuces and apples. We plan to set a goal of to around 30 percent “real” food by 2020 and present this commitment to the college on National Food Day on Oct. 24. This is higher than what many other colleges and universities are aiming for; we want to be one of the leading institutions that have an even greater impact in food sourcing, adding to Hamilton’s reputation as a prominent college that values sustainability.
I hope, through the efforts of the Real Food Challenge, Slow Food, Bon Appétit, academic classes and other outlets, that we can stir up real conversation that considers food beyond what we see on our plates. It is so easy to be removed from the processes that go into food production, and I encourage everyone to start thinking and reconnect. Some farmworkers receive pennies out of the sales of the food they grow, areas of our country are destroyed from agricultural abuse and even though we produce more than enough food globally to support the world’s population, one in every eight people suffers from malnourishment according to the UN FAO. On top of that, there are now more people who are overweight than those who are malnourished. The food industry in our country alone is riddled with competing issues of lack of access, an abundance of fast food, dietary concerns, industrial monopolies, and vanishing family farms. The decisions we make about what to eat are all at once unifying, divisive, traditional, avant-garde and ridden with political and economic issues.
But let’s bring it back home. We are one of the fortunate communities that has the drive to work together to improve and transform our campus food purchasing. We can join together with colleges and universities across the country and purchase food that satisfies our palates, our budget, and our beliefs at the same time. So let’s start thinking and questioning our food, and let’s get excited for impact that Hamilton can have on food purchasing nationwide.