On Saturday October 24, the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) of Kalamazoo College invited students, Alumni, faculty, staff, and community partners to contribute in a food sustainability think tank. Their goal was to answer the question of how K can contribute to being a more just and sustainable food system in Kalamazoo.
Farms to K was one program on campus that contributed to creating a more just and sustainable food system, however they are not currently active. According to Alison Geist, the Director of the CCE, “[it’s] time to [revise] and reimagine Farms to K,” and this think tank stemmed from conversations about doing just that.
Amelia Katanski, an English department Professor at K, began the event by explaining some of the history of Farms to K. Her seminar on food in the during the fall of 2005 “began going out in the community [and thinking] about what it would take to build relationships in the community to provide local food in the cafeteria at the college,” Katanski said. Her course then “shifted to food justice, [talking] about the treatment of farm workers, cafeteria staff, and ways to sustain the local [Kalamazoo] community.”
Farms to K was the key player in finding a new food service provider for the college and replace the long-time provider, Sodexo. “Farms to K partnered with others on campus to educate students of other food service providers,” Katanski stated. Finally, Creative Dining became the college’s new food service provider
One of Katanski’s students was Holly Anderson K’09, who currently works in Grand Rapids with a food club that promotes food security and dignity to low-income families. While she was here, Anderson worked as the Civic Engagement Scholar for Farms to K. “[It’s important to eat] locally, not just for us and our bodies but also for our community,” Anderson said.
The think tank was then split into small groups and handed discussion questions to try and come up with some ideas of how to get K to contribute to being a more sustainable food system in Kalamazoo. Courtney Davis, the Administrative Coordinator of Health & Community Services in Kalamazoo County, stressed the need to “[train] ourselves to eat [with the] seasonality [of locally grown foods].”
Other suggestions circled around the education of people on the fresh food available to them here in the community of Kalamazoo and how to prepare these foods. Cindy Xiao K’18 works as a current Civic Engagement Scholar for Club Grub at Woodward Elementary School, promoting the education of fresh foods and preparation within the community to the students there. “Club Grub bases it’s curriculum on foods that students aren’t sure about,” Xiao added.
“It’s one thing to talk about access to food but [we need to also talk about] the next step which is preparing the food,” Xiao said.