Ask William Smith junior Mollie Kenerson ’15 about food and she gets visibly excited. Not just any food: it has to be of the local, good-for-you variety.
Kenerson, an environmental studies major with minors in anthropology and Spanish, spent last summer working with the Finger Lakes Institute to develop a plan to increase locally sourced foods in Geneva and at Hobart and William Smith. Her project was originally inspired by a visit from Environmentalist David Orr in 2012 in which he spoke about local food sourcing at Oberlin College where he is a professor of environmental studies and politics. Her passion for environmental justice and community development, however, has much deeper roots.
“I am really interested in how we interact with the world around us and how communities interact,” explained Kenerson. “I have always been passionate about environmental justice, and food is the perfect intersection of those interests. Everything comes down to food eventually.”
Kenerson’s work focused primarily on two separate projects. The first, was working with Dining Services on campus to prepare the Real Food Challenge last fall, a program that leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system. Their primary campaign is the shift of $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food toward local, community-based, fair, ecologically sound and human food sources by 2020. HWS signed on to participate in the campaign in April of 2013. The Real Food Challenge required student dedication and commitment, and Kenerson explored ways to get the student body involved.
“The working group for the Real Food Challenge should be at least 50 percent students,” explained Kenerson. “I know there are already a lot of students on campus who care about sustainable, local foods.”
In addition to her work focused on HWS, Kenerson created an event with a broader community focus.
“I didn’t know how much food was produced here or the variety of different types of products when I arrived in the Finger Lakes,” said Kenerson. “My goal was to make sure that all members of community know about the local food that is available. I think that much of the reason for unsustainable consumption is a lack of knowledge and access to alternatives.”
Kenerson coordinated a local food event that took place last August at the Bicentennial Park in Geneva. The event featured vendors with a wide array of local products and foods.
“The purpose of this event was to get people talking and networking. Ideally, I wanted to broaden the scope of people who feel like they are part of the local food movement and community in Geneva,” she said.
Kenerson continued to work for the Finger Lakes Institute on issues related to local food throughout the academic year. In the spring semester, she studied abroad in Ecuador and Peru, where she continued to work on issues of community building and environmental justice.