Have you ever wondered what other colleges are like? Especially schools that are not tech schools? Well this weekend four of us got the opportunity to spend three days and two nights (crashing on the floor of a random student’s dorm) at Boston College. We were there as a part of the Real Food Challenge, a leadership training conference about food issues on college campuses. We got to meet over 30 students from other schools who, in many instances, had vastly different ways of thinking about issues than a typical RPI student. Us science-y kids tend to focus on the analytical and practical, even if by doing so we undermine the goals we are trying to reach. This weekend the four of us got to focus on how to stop worrying temporarily about about the ifs and buts and just get things done.
This weekend was one big ah-ha moment. For us the “ah-ha” was not a particular realization per say, it was being part of an experience that was able to reinvigorate the energy you can get from going beyond the traditional role of a student. In a general sense we came out of the weekend incredibly inspired, but even more so came out with a powerful awareness of how disconnected you can easily become from what you eat, and how many different ways there are to steadily dissolve that disconnect.
Food is an integral part of our lives and culture. Real Food aims to broaden our vision. There are many hidden steps between planting a seed and putting food on the table. Real Food is about finding the connections and strengthening key stakeholders with the aim of creating a fair, sustainable food system.
Real Food is healthy, just, and clean. The movement includes justice for the farmers and laborers who produce our food both at home and abroad. It also emphasizes sustainable cultivation practices that do not poison or degrade the land. This means rotating crops and using natural fertilizers such as compost. The Real Food Challenge works to cut across economic classes to create opportunity for everyone to eat real food. Here in Troy, the Capital District Community Gardens grows gardens throughout the city and runs a Veggie Mobile. They are always looking for volunteers.
There are lots of ways to get involved, whether on campus or off. For fresh local organic food head down to the Troy Farmers Market on Saturdays or the student-run Terra Café, hosted upstairs in Sage Dining Hall every Wednesday from 11:30 am–1:30 pm. Campus dining facilities are beginning to offer a few token resources such as MyZone, where they offer access to alternative foods. For those who no longer get pampered by dining services, the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany (hwfc.com) offers many healthy options as well.
Whether you are passionate about food issues or just wanting to learn a bit more about the systems you affect and rely on, we will be having a showing of Food Inc. this Thursday, February 25, followed by a panel discussion with students, faculty, and local experts. Then, this Saturday, Terra Café is hosting a (free!) Farmers Market Sampler to introduce students to all the foods regularly offered at the Troy Farmers Market. We hope to see you there!