It was almost impossible for students to ignore the farmers’ market lining the sidewalk into Scandling Campus Center – but that was the point. The farmers’ market, along with several other related events, were part of a recent Food Day celebration, a nationwide effort aimed at raising awareness on college campuses and in surrounding communities about the abundance of sustainable, local food.
At HWS, Food Day was marked by high attendance and positive feedback from students, faculty, and community members alike. In addition to the market, Food Day consisted of the “Real Food, Real Talk” open forum, and in Saga, the “100-Mile Meal” and the “Weigh the Waste” project, all of which focused on food sustainability issues.
“It was another opportunity to educate,” says Sustainability Manager Adam Maurer. “For the local community, it’s an indication that HWS is committed to education of local sustainable foods; for the HWS community, it’s an indication of our commitment as well, but also a way for us to celebrate the bounty of agricultural services and products throughout our region.”
The farmers’ market was a significant event, offering the HWS and local community an opportunity to purchase local and sustainable products, and to interact with the growers. “The purpose wasn’t for people to purchase things, but to raise awareness,” says Maurer. “People at least slowed down and had a conversation with the farmers or stopped to talk to students that were tabling. It was really successful in that aspect.”
The event was also successful and enjoyable for vendors, as they showcased their products and engaged with members of the HWS community. “I think the event worked to encourage students about local food because it was available right at their fingertips,” says Joe Zerby of Evergreen Farms, Rock Stream, N.Y., one of the farmers. “They were able to talk to the person who grew the food. Just being visible with the veggies planted a seed in students.”
As a result of the farmers’ market, Food Day organizers hope that the HWS and Geneva communities will be more aware of the many opportunities to purchase locally grown food direct from vendors in the area. Representatives from Red Jacket Orchards, who were at the market, said students were “surprised yet pretty excited” to learn that products they already purchase, such as Red Jacket Orchards juices, are made in Geneva.
While area farmers are doing their part to provide the community with sustainable products, Food Day also worked to educate students and the community on the Colleges’ commitment to maintaining a sustainable campus. Throughout the day, students and faculty weighed the post-consumer waste in Saga as part of the “Weigh the Waste” project. A total of 2,159 guests produced 506 pounds of post-consumer waste and 40.2 gallons of beverage waste.
“‘Weigh the Waste’ is a clear indication of the amount of waste, if not diverted, that would be going straight to the landfill,” says Maurer.
On campus, a team of Sodexo Dining Services employees work behind the scenes at every meal to take organic material from trays in order to be diverted from the landfill and reused in other useful products. Instead of going to the landfill, HWS ensures that the waste is instead recycled into soil. “This is why the events within Saga were so important for students to learn about what Saga is doing and see their commitment to sustainability,” Maurer says.
During the day’s activities, students also enjoyed Saga’s “100-Mile Meal.” The stations, which featured meals made from foods grown only within 100 miles of campus, drew a total of 604 students – more than half of the 881 guests that attended the Food Day dinner that night. Stacey Davis ’15, a student organizer of Food Day, says an important goal of the “100-Mile Meal” was making students more aware of the food that they’re eating.
Overall, Davis, who also is an Eco Rep and a member of the Sustainable Foods Club and Real Food Challenge, believes that the meal was successful in educating students on where the food on campus is sourced. “It increased the interest of many students,” Davis says. “Students have been coming up to me and asking me how they can get involved in promoting sustainability and local products on campus.”
Food Day events concluded with “Real Food, Real Talk,” a panel discussion where students were presented with an opportunity to learn about sustainability efforts in the community. A variety of food vendors from the Finger Lakes region were featured as panelists, including farmers, representatives from Sodexo Dining Services, and restaurateurs, including Tatiana Bruno ’05 from the former Leaf Kitchen. Bruno says the panel discussion was a success in raising awareness of the “absolute importance of sustainable food.”
“Students seemed eager to get information from panelists,” Bruno says. “I wish when I was an HWS student there was more emphasis on building those bridges within the community. I am happy to see students and professors making the necessary effort.”
Students, faculty and the community have plans to further their commitment to the sustainability effort on campus. Plans are already in the works for another Food Day next year, and members of the Sustainable Foods Club have been working with the Real Food Challenge on Campus toward the goal of sourcing more than 20 percent of food on campus locally by 2020.
“Events like this one are important because they help bring awareness and presence to the importance of food,” Zerby says.