Last weekend several members of Slow Food BU and I visited UMass Amherst for the 2nd Annual NE Real Food Summit, where over 300 students from the northeast gathered to network, attend workshops, and brainstorm ideas on how to bring local, sustainable, fair, and real food into our schools.
Real foods help to nourish the earth, producers, consumers, and communities. And with over $4 billion dollars spent on food every year by universities, colleges can make a significant impact on food supply trends. Thus, a goal of the Real Food Challenge, which runs the food summits, is to get 20% of all foods purchased by colleges and universities towards real foods by 2020.
Ways that students can become involved in the movement towards more sustainable foods include joining the Youth Food Movement, creating or joining a Slow Food on Campus Convivia, joining the Real Food Challenge, or by holding an eat-in.
Workshops included "Building Food IQ and Sharpening Your Sound Bytes" by Dr. Susan Rubin, the founder of Better School Food. At this workshop, students learned, among other things, that the sweetener high-fructose corn commonly found in commercial foods has been indicated to be contaminated with mercury. Furthermore, it takes around 17 feet of sugar cane to make 1 cup of sugar. Suggested reads included The End of Food by Paul Roberts and Death by Supermarket by Nancy Deville.
Meanwhile, in another workshop 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 its positives- including the fact that the farm bill sets aside money (over $2 billion for the next five years) for nutrition and food safety net programs.
I will discuss food and food issues in later posts, but in the meantime here is a movie that I highly recommend: The Future of Food.