Taylor Owen is a guest blogger from Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota and he is also a Campus Coordinator for Food Day. Below is the first post in a blog series leading up to October 24 in which he will be reflecting on his work and the importance of the food movement.
When I first heard about Food Day, my interest was instantly intrigued. As I imagine most people involved in the Real Food Challenge are, I have been concerned more and more with the issues of food. Food Day seemed like a perfect chance for food activists like myself to bring our issue to the center of the campus discourse. It is only fair that food gets its day. If we look at the food systems of our era, the huge problems they face are evidence that giving attention to food only three times a day isn’t enough. Food, as an issue, needs at least a whole 24 hours of serious reflection. I have been trying to make Food Day that critical day for my campus ever since I discovered it.
I will be organizing Food Day at Carleton College where I will invite a diverse group of students, with opinions towards food that range the gamut. I hope to inspire conscientious students to more actively pressure their community to move in the direction of Real Food. I also hope to motivate as many students as possible to take advantage of the Real Food we’re lucky enough to receive on my campus; I hope they do this at the expense of the factory-farmed food, inorganic, unseasonal food shipped from far away - food that exists as the result of unfair labor practices. If I see results on both fronts, and hopefully come away from Food Day well fed, then I will know that Carleton had a successful first Food Day.
Ever since I heard about Food Day I have been thinking about exactly what I want it to mean for me as well as my campus. My first thought was to replicate the event that brought me into the food movement. It was a potluck put on by the campus food activism group “Food Truth.” I had wanted to show off some ravioli I had made, and it seemed like the perfect venue. I was quickly impressed by the community of dedicated foodies and chefs, people who knew food and what made it taste good. The fact that they cared about the history of their ingredients also attracted me. I had just returned to the US from Italy, and learning to cook in that country’s food culture had, and still has, a great impact on me. Seeing that such a community, one like the friends in Italy who had fostered my food awareness, existed on my campus brought me great joy. It was from these people that I became more aware of the Real Food Challenge and the problems it exists to solve. Initially, this sounded like the ideal food day – what it was meant to be, but as I think about it more, I think this is a bit selfish. Sure, letting likeminded souls know a food activist group does exist for them is noble, but Food Day needs to have a deep impact no single potluck can achieve.
Recently I was thinking that food day should focus on why a group like the RFC is so necessary. To go about teaching students about the problems with food and what we can do. The term information came up a lot, but that comes across as so dry. I think it is imperative to share with students, and anyone else who cares to listen, the importance of the RFC’s mission. Still, a day of statistics and an impassioned defense of the existence of the RFC seemed impersonal and too academic. This goal certainly has a place in Food Day, but Food Day is not about the RFC or any organization or single campaign. It is about celebrating real food and celebrating our ideals, not vilifying alternatives.
I next thought that perhaps a celebration of the food activist was in order. RFC is a collection of activists, and I think Food Day must attract more to be considered a success. I thought it would a great treat to us activists to celebrate our achievements while inspiring others to join our effort. We food activists work hard, and we do achieve, and everyday another fruit of our labor ripens. I thought this might be a wise thing to focus on for Food Day. Who doesn’t love a good celebration? I think this is actually a good idea, but Food Day is a celebration of food, and food activists have a lot more work to do before we can give ourselves a day for back patting.
I believe a good Food Day won’t be as reductive as the previous incarnation my head brought forth. While the focus should be as simple as two words, Good Food, how we celebrate our objective of getting all campuses access to Real Food should be multifaceted. A successful Food Day will only be the outcome of hard work, where a dedication to extolling good food, providing good food, and inspiring good activism in even the most cynical of McNugget munchers are all given equal care and attention.