Campus Convergence: Students gather to promote local food

Transylvania University students Alexis Carey, Maria Starck, and Katelyn Long chat during a break for lunch at the WKU Farm/Campus Convergence on February 23, 2013. College students from around Kentucky traveled to WKU in order to help come up with solutions for environmental issues on their own campuses. “I think on our campus we’ve had a lot of issues with SIDEXO and I want to know a way to funnel our complaints into action and empowerment for students,” said Carey.

Mitchell Grogg

WKU Americans for Informed Democracy organized a dinner and conference to encourage students — and the companies whose food they eat — to consume more local food.

Louisville junior Molly Kaviar, an organizer of the event with WKU AID, said in the past, the group has done a big fair trade movement.

“And so, for me personally, it’s important to know where my food is coming from and to know that my purchasing dollars are going to responsible things,” Kaviar said.

The weekend kicked off with a dinner in the Faculty House made up of food grown locally. The dinner included speeches from local farmers.

“We are just trying to promote local, sustainable food on campus and local businesses,” Kaviar said.

The weekend continued with the Farm to Campus Convergence. It featured speakers giving advice on how to make an impact on what campus dining halls serve, as well as a look at how the food industry operates.

One of the conference’s goals was to help students push for more local food in campus dining halls.

Students from outside Bowling Green came in for the convergence, including people from Transylvania University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Murray State University and St. Joseph’s College in Indiana.

St. Joseph’s College junior Danny Crider said they were trying to do more things for sustainability.

“This is our first semester with a sustainability minor, and we just built a greenhouse,” Crider said.

One of the methods suggested for more sustainability in food was the Real Food Challenge, which promotes food that is fair, humane, local and ecologically sound, according to regional organizer Carmen Black, who began promoting local food after seeing farmers near her hometown face difficulties.

Black, who is from Iowa, saw her neighbors who were farmers, suffering trying to grow crops other than corn and soy.

The Real Food Challenge aims for schools that sign on to it to serve 20 percent of what the organization defines as real food by 2020.

Sourcing food locally was also part of the conference.

Speaker Sarah Fritschner of the Louisville Farm to Table Program feels sourcing food more locally helps to build communities.

“If we can set up a local food system where farmers can get paid for their food, then it’s important,” she said. “The farmers make a living. They pay more taxes. We build our roads and bridges and schools better because we have more tax base.”

Kaviar agreed with Fritschner’s sentiments.

“When it comes to local food, I know I’m supporting local business and the local economy,” Kaviar said.

Auburn sophomore A.J. Stewart feels that if making food on campus more local happens, other things can as well.

“We can do this,” he said. “And if we improve this aspect of life, living on campus, we can make other things happen. It’s a domino effect.”