Monday, October 29, 2012

VISTAs lead Food Day events on 3 campuses

On October 24, NC Campus Compact VISTAs helped organize Food Day events on several campuses, including Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC, and UNC Wilmington. Their efforts were part of a nationwide campaign to promote healthy, affordable, sustainably-produced local food. In keeping with their focus on food security, these VISTAs coordinated campus and community-wide events to raise awareness about the challenge of food access.

At UNC Wilmington, VISTA Olivia Dorsey helped coordinate and promote a full slate of campus and community events beginning at 8 AM with speeches by Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo and other local officials and ending with evening presentations at a local food co-op, Tidal Creek. A highlight of the day was the "Local Lunch" served at UNCW's dining hall, where students and guests enjoyed local pork chops, collards and other dishes. The diners thus met the Food Day Challenge, eating one meal consisting solely of local foods.

County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield helps proclaim Food Day Wilmington.
Morning workshops by experts highlighted healthy cooking and nutrition, and afternoon panel discussions addressed food insecurity and how local non-profits are working to expend healthy food options for citizens. Both Dorsey and her VISTA supervisor, Dr. Leslie Hossfeld, presented on behalf of Food Day sponsor Feast Down East. Other partners supported the event, including the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC and the Wilmington Housing Authority.

UNCW's Food Day was the culmination of several food-related activities earlier in the week, including an on-campus food drive to support the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC and a screening of the documentary film Food, Inc. at the Lumina Theater.

At Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA, VISTA Leah Pallant coordinated three events. Pallant partnered with a campus sustainability organization, Green Team!, to educate students about the amounts of salt, fat, and sugar found in many processed foods. The team provided participants with an "alternative shopping list" that replaced unhealthy items with healthier snacks. Over 150 students in the dining hall took part in a Soda Pour Out Petition, pledging to give up soda for a time. Some of the data collected from the event will be used in the upcoming Hunger Awareness Week.

Mary Baldwin's Food Day concluded with a screening of Food Mythbusters at the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement. Local businesses donated snacks and local food experts, including the Head of Campus Dining Services and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank's community outreach coordinator, led a post-film discussion of local food issues. Pallant reported, "Overall, I was very satisfied with what we pulled together for the day, and I am excited to see what comes together during Hunger Awareness Week."

In Hickory, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne, VISTA Ariel Mitchell helped organized the school's 2nd Annual Hunger Banquet. Seventeen students participated, using their meal plans. When they arrived, each student drew an income bracket at random: high-, middle-, or low-income. Students classified as high-income at the best meal. They had their choice of drinks, a rich spread, and cheesecake for desert. Middle-income participants ate more modestly, and had rice and beans. Students who drew the low-income group ate only rice, drank only water, and sat on the floor.

The manager of the Hickory Soup Kitchen also came to talk to the group about the soup kitchen and what their clients really eat. Students were impressed by his familiarity with clients of the soup kitchen, because he knew many of them by name and told their stories. Students got a chance to ask questions about the Soup Kitchen and the services provided and found out that during the summer, the kitchen serves between thirty and sixty children every day. Mtichell used the opportunity to inform participants of volunteer opportunities with the soup kitchen and other local organizations.