Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with students visiting Philadelphia from Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario in Canada about food system planning. Although all were undergraduates and several steps away from picking a career, I was surprised by the depth of their questions. They had questions about federal agricultural policy and environmental regulations of farms, and if the increases in food insecurity and obesity are symptomatic of a disappearing middle class, among other quandaries.
The students’ enthusiasm for food systems and ability to think critically about modern society’s challenges are reflected in the upcoming 2012 Food Day activities. As noted in Margaret Waldock’s “Keeping the ‘Garden’ in the Garden State” blog post, the second annual National Food Day is on October 24th. Food Day activities in and around New Jersey range from farmers markets and food festivals to educational forums and documentary screenings. It’s hard to pack all the activities into one day, so many organizations across the nation are using the month of October to celebrate Food Day and raise awareness about food issues.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia is hosting its first “Fall Food and Public Health Series” starting with a panel discussion on October 9th entitled “Philadelphia’s Sustainable Food Village: It’s Complicated.” On October 18th, I am moderating a panel discussion with several food experts that have very different answers to the purposely provocative question “Is Sustainable Agriculture Bad for the Planet?” On October 21st, author of a Diet for a Hot Planet, Anna Lappe will screen a new short film in which she looks critically at industrial farming. And because neither one day nor one month can contain it all, the series ends with internationally known consumer activist and nutritionist Marion Nestle visiting the Academy on November 8th.
Livingston Township in Essex County, NJ, in partnership with United Way of Northern New Jerseys, is hosting an impressive variety of events. The events range from serious and helpful, such as nutritional education tours of the local ShopRite and healthy eating classes at the Senior Community Center, to fun and feel good events, such as a 5K race and a student logo design contest at Livingston High School, both of which benefit a local food pantry, Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (C.H.O.W).
Food Day can also be a catalyst for announcements. At the southwest corner of the state, the Salem Health and Wellness Foundation will kick off a new initiative – Healthy Kids/Bright Futures – focused on nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention.
And sometimes it’s just a good idea to get together and enjoy food! The Montclair Community Farm Coalition and the Montclair Historical Society are teaming up with local chefs to host a seasonal soup celebration, a “Spoon-a-thon,” complete with live music, tours of historical buildings, and news about a future community farm! The event is representative of the new partnership between the historical society and the Montclair Community Farm Coalition – MCFC is starting a new urban farm at the historic Crane House, on land once farmed by European settlers.
Also in Montclair, the public library is screening a documentary entitled Greenhorns, which explores the lives of beginning farmers, many of whom did not grow up on farms. And more events are being added to the Food Day map and calendar every day!
Agriculture, food supplies, hunger, and nutrition are already huge issues facing much of the world today. Although less than 1% of all Americans are farmers today, Food Day reminds us that we are all stakeholders in the food system.
Alison Hastings of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and DVRPC partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog on issues of food policy and regional food systems.
Throughout the month of October, the Dodge blog will feature blog posts related to food issues and food systems in honor of Food Day 2012.
For a complete archive of our food related articles, please click here.
If you are hosting a Food Day event, please let everyone know in the comments section below.