Chelsea Wallace ‘14 left Kalamazoo last week for an apprenticeship at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Poncantico Hills, New York. For six months, she will work to further the center’s mission of creating a consciousness about the effect of everyday food choices.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is the pinnacle of high class farm-to-table dining. The restaurant uses food grown within a 250 mile radius. The offerings change daily, even hourly, depending on what’s ripe. Inspired by Dan Barber’s TED talk—who is the co-owner and executive chef at Blue Hill—Wallace sought an opportunity to work there.
Many facets of Wallace’s education at K influenced her interest in food. She always loved food, but she didn’t think much beyond enjoying the taste. “I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a ‘food system,’ ” she said about her experience in Amelia Katanski’s ‘Cultivation Community’ seminar. “I called my mom and said, ‘Mama! There’s corn in everything! Everything! I can’t do this!’ ”
And so began her quest to impact food systems she considers problematic and work through challenges of food access in her community. She started by dropping her meal plan and cooking her own meals sophomore year. “I realized that food was something you could get involved in intellectually and creatively,” she said.
In the fall of her senior year, her interest in food distilled through her Senior Individualized Project (SIP) work. She researched the effect of strawberries on insulin, triglycerides and glucose after ingestion of a high fat/carbohydrate meal (to read in full, search ‘Wallace’ in the SIP Cache). She realized that her favorite part of the process was preparing the breakfast for her eight participants. She wanted to be hands-on with food. “If you get to make delicious food that brings people together, why the heck not?”
Though she hopes to extend her visa next year, Wallace plans to eventually return to her hometown of St. Catherine, Jamaica. “Our food system is starting to look a lot like the American food system, which is not okay,” she said.
Wallace explained with incredulity that Jamaica spends over $1 billion on food and beverage imports per year. She hopes to work to improve their complex, import-dependent food system. “If we could become more food sovereign, that would help our economy, as well as farmers and communities and health,” she says. “If we don’t have good food – food that’s coming from a good source in our community, we’re not thriving.”