by Cori Hilsgen
Have you ever tried dried mangos or couscous salad with cranberries? Those were some of the foods visitors were able to sample at the College of St. Benedict Food Day Oct. 24.
CSB joined with hundreds of other college campuses to celebrate Food Day. More than 4,500 events in all 50 states were planned for the day.
Food Day is a nationwide effort to promote healthy, affordable and sustainably produced foods and a grassroots campaign for improved food policies. It was launched in 2011 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Various tables were set up in the Gorecki Center Fireside lounge, including the Central Minnesota Sustainability Project, Common Ground Garden, CSB/SJU Nutrition Club, CSB/SJU Sustainability Alliance and Minnesota Street Market.
Common Ground Garden manager Kate Ritger and CSB senior nutrition student Molly Johnson spoke to visitors at their tables about the garden. This is Ritger’s third season with the garden. She talked about the community supported agriculture program, which directly links farmers and consumers, and how a family-of-four membership can purchase 18 weeks of fresh produce for $450. Single people can purchase a half share for $270.
Chanti Calabria and Ellyn Holliday shared information at their table about the Central Minnesota Sustainability Project. This project connects people with land and provides the supplies and knowledge to grow healthy, chemical-free foods.
Myra Schrup and Mary Johnson offered dried mangos at the Minnesota Street Market table. They introduced visitors to the market and discussed investing in the co-op. The co-op supports local farmers and artisans, keeping money local. A lifetime membership can be purchased for $100 and students can purchase an annual membership for $20.
Andee Holdener introduced Community Kitchen, a new initiative to deliver CSB’s unused food to needy families. She discussed the pilot program serving food twice each week at local events.
CSB/SJU Nutrition Club treasurer Melissa Bradley was busy passing out samples of couscous salad with cranberries. Visitors commented on how “tasty” the salad was.
Also planned was a food documentary, “A Place at the Table,” for visitors to view. CSB/SJU associate economics professor Parker Wheatley was scheduled to present “Playing with Food Policy and Politics of the U.S. Food and Nutrition Programs.”
Wheatley’s research includes household decision and consumption among low-income areas and the study of the structure, pricing and location of financial institutions that service low-income areas.
Food Day organizers aim to help people eat “real” by cutting back on overly salted packaged foods, sugary drinks and fatty, factory-farmed meats. It encourages eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and sustainably-raised protein.
A dream of Food Day organizers is to see more crowds at area farmers markets and co-ops and less at fast-food restaurants.
Today’s average American diets greatly contribute to diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other health issues. Organizers hope to change that.
Food Day organizers list the following as their priorities: Promote safer, healthier diets; support sustainable and organic farms; reduce hunger; reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals; and support fair working conditions for food and farm workers.
Food Day has organized a school initiative called “Get Food Education in Every School.” One-third of United States children are overweight. Because of obesity-related diseases, today’s students are predicted to be the first generation to die at a younger age than their parents.
Food education in every school aims to make children aware by incorporating hands-on cooking and food skills in the schools. It tries to give children the chance to learn about food and nutrition and the results of food waste. Promoters believe children who learn about food and nutrition will eat more fruits and vegetables and will appreciate a variety of healthier foods. By learning about food waste, less children will be hungry. Currently, 17 million United States children are hungry.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.