fresh produce in a box

Students organize week of events to explore food-related issues

Several student organizations—including Food Recovery Network and Slow Food CWRU—are uniting around their common causes: food and hunger. This year, students Madeline Garb and Naveen Rehman are leading the effort to put on the third annual Food Symposium, which is themed “Food, Health and Politics.”

The week of events kicks off with a keynote address by Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University. She will present “Food Politics in 2018: A Humanities Perspective” Friday, March 23, at 4:30 p.m. in Tinkham Veale University Center, Ballroom A, as part of both the Food Symposium and the Cleveland Humanities Festival.

Events will continue through March 30 and explore a wide range of topics, including food waste and food literacy.

Learn more about the events at

In anticipation of the events, we talked with Nárcisz Fejes, a SAGES Fellow who teaches classes related to food and who, as adviser of Food Recovery Network, is helping the students organize the event.

She shared five tips she thinks individuals should consider when making food choices.

1. We should teach healthy and sustainable food choices from an early age both in the classroom and outside on the land.

Humans have evolved outside but we’ve by now dramatically lost our connection with nature. Re-gaining an understanding of soil, climate and seasonality can help us become aware of the labor and knowledge that goes into producing food and gives us more appreciation for it.

The Edible Schoolyard Program, along with a host of other programs, has done a wonderful job starting school gardens and having kids grow and cook foods. They develop a sense of appreciation for the natural environment and pride for the foods that they grow. It is however never too late to experiment with growing your own produce.

Learn more about this topic at a panel discussion on food literacy Friday, March 30, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Crawford, 09A.

2. Think about the industries you are supporting when you buy food at the grocery store.

Learn about the political and economic forces behind food production and develop a critical stance toward diet fads, food industry health claims, labels, and even the USDA’s often intentionally unclear nutritional guidelines.

Food corporations will always try to sell you something and there is tremendous nudge toward processed food and meat options because of cheap production costs.

Healthy eating can be boiled down to something quite simple: Eat less and mostly plants, using Michael Pollan’s words.

Learn more about this topic at the Food Symposium keynote address Friday, March 23, at 4:30 p.m. in Tinkham Veale University Center, Ballroom A, and at a food market Monday, March 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Tinkham Veale University Center food court.

3. Buy only the amount you’ll consume.

One-third of all food produced goes to waste globally. An average American household wastes about 30 to 40 percent of food. Twenty percent of landfills is food. Given the environmental consequences of industrial food production and the pressing problem of food inequality, this is an urgent issue that needs our attention.

Curbing food waste is an agrifood system change, along with modifying our diets, which can drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, associated with food production and landfills, without inventing new technology.

Thanks to a few initiatives to recover food that would otherwise end up in the landfill or composting programs, this issue is slowly finding its way into the public spotlight it truly deserves.

A food waste display will be held for students Tuesday, March 27, from noon to 1 p.m. in Thwing Center.

4. Be aware of the ecological footprint of your consumption patterns.

World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years. There is simply not enough soil and water to accommodate the meat demand of industrializing nations if they aspire to eat as much meat as U.S. citizens currently do. We can’t produce the amount of animal feed needed without ruining entire ecosystems and local communities that rely on them.

Global climate change has already put a lot of lands under strain. Low-carbon footprint diets also tend to be much healthier and cheaper, so educating ourselves about these choices is overall a good start. Future generations will thank us.

This topic will be covered in a panel discussion with local farmers Wednesday, March 28, from noon to 1 p.m. in Tinkham Veale University Center Senior Classroom.

5. Think about food as not just nourishment but a way to bring communities together for a common good.

Enjoying—but especially cooking—food with others helps us create long-lasting memories with our families or communal bonds. When we cook, we are more aware of what goes into our bodies and how the food was produced. Growing the food as part of a community movement or at home enhances such awareness, empowers citizens and energizes the local economy.

Learn more at a documentary screening of Knife Skills Wednesday, March 28, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Tinkham Veale University Center, Ballroom A, and at the food market Monday, March 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Tinkham Veale University Center food court.