'Meet What You Eat' Gives Students Food For Thought

Story posted February 22, 2011

It doesn't take too much prodding to get students interested in food, but they are getting a lot to chew on this semester. There is a veritable banquet of events, courses and hands-on activities that explore the role of foods in shaping public health, local and global economies, the environment, and the choices students make in their daily lives. [See full schedule of events.]

"Students are inherently interested in these issues," notes Director of Environmental Studies Phil Camill, who is teaching an interdisciplinary senior seminar on Food and Agriculture. "They want to arrive at an ethical and intellectual understanding of what their own food decisions look like."

Schedule of Events

Events planned for "Meet What You Eat" include a public talk by leading agronomist/author Wes Jackson
, EcoService Day projects on local farms, and a fresh fish supper with the fishermen themselves. Read about the events.


Meet What You Eat kicks off Monday, Feb. 21, 2011, with Meatless Monday. Dining Service will be serving a completely vegetarian dinner menu that highlights the health and environmental benefits of a diet with less meat. The initiative is sponsored by an alliance of student groups, athletic teams and campus organizations.

Students taking Troubled Waters: Fishing in the Gulf of Maine with Anne Hayden and Coastal Studies Scholar Ted Ames will meet for a seafood dinner with local fishermen on March 9, for an informal conversation on how to support local, sustainable fisheries in Maine.

Other events connected with Meet What You Eat include a public lecture by leading agronomist/author Wes Jackson, EcoService Day projects connected to local farms, maple syrup-making demonstrations on the Bowdoin campus, and a public talk by Stoneyfield Farms founder Gary Hirschberg on "Green Business: Doing Well by Doing Good."

"Food connects all of our lives, and we want to create linkages that directly involve students and focus on our local area," says Camill. "We're not just bringing in speakers from around the country to talk to us. We're connecting students with different elements of our local food system and asking them to get involved in them."

"Many Bowdoin students are exploring local foods and implications for agricultural systems in their undergraduate research and service projects as well," notes Environmental Studies Program Manager Eileen Johnson.

"Last year, students organized a food chain between Bowdoin College and the MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program that involved hundreds of students and community members and resulted in the hand-to-hand delivery of 1,200 cans of food."

Recent ES student research projects include: Maina Handmaker '11 conducted independent research and visual arts projects examining opportunities for expanding local farmer's markets; Spencer Neitmann'11, explored the costs of local food as a perceived barrier to expanded procurement by area residents; and Jane Koopman '10 conducted an in-depth spatial analysis that identified prime farmlands in the region. Koopman's work led to the expanded capacity of two local land trusts in identifying and submitting grants for purchase of agricultural easements.

"Food production is such a huge driver of environmental change, so it's not surprising that environmental studies students are engaged," notes Camill. "But they're also engaged because we're making the connection that food is not just about the environment. It's connected to social and ethical issues, including our diets, food marketing, impacts on migrant workers and farm communities, animal welfare, the political-economic power of the modern food industry, food security, and many more topics. Students at Bowdoin are well equipped to handle the interdisciplinary nature of the discussion because they know how to think along different frames and narratives."

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