Seattle University will hold its second annual Food Day in the Admissions & Alumni Building Community Room on Oct. 24 at 5:30 p.m. I decided to sit down with its organizers, senior Claire Siegel and junior Ames Fowler, to discuss the importance of food justice, what this year’s event has in store and why they both want to be beets when they grow up.
Caroline Ferguson: What can we expect from food day this year? What do you guys have planned?
Claire Siegel: More than anything it’s a celebration of food that is sustainable, affordable and accessible.
Ames Fowler: And local.
CS: And local.
AF: Right. The event has a general structure where we’re working very closely with Bon App. They’ve been incredibly supportive. Last year Claire and I were planning a very similar event and then Buzz [Hofford, food service director for Bon Appetit at Seattle U] just planned the event out from under us basically, without us having any communication.
CS: In a good way.
AF: In a wonderful way. It happened and we weren’t connected, so this year we are connected. And I guess we should start by saying we’re connected through a new organization called the Eco Alliance which is just ecologically-focused clubs working together. But the structure of the event is that Bon App is catering a meal prepared by local produce–is it from the farm?
CS: I think some of it is from our urban farm.
AF: And then we will watch a food-related documentary together after this event and we’ll have a speaker.
CS: Laura Dewell.
AF: From Green Plate Special, which is a food accessibility and justice organization in Seattle. It’ll be a place for our environmental clubs of different calibers and tastes to present themselves and be available for dialogue with students as well. So it’s really a place for students to celebrate food together and enter into a communication about how we live and celebrate life in an ecological manner.
CF: You said that there was a food day last year. Is this a long-running event? Could you tell me a little bit about past food days?
CS: Hopefully it will be long-running. I guess this is our second official one. I know Buzz was kind of the main leader of last year’s, which, again, it’s just awesome to see that Bon App and Buzz are taking such an active stand here. And last year I think we had about fifty to sixty attendees. It was in the Boeing Room, there was awesome food, we watched a documentary called “The Truck Farm” which was about mobile urban agriculture. There were a few speakers of clubs. This year I think we’re going to focus on really having it be more structured and organized with more organized opportunities to get involved. So kind of that SU thing of, “here’s the problem in the world, here’s a tangible way to solve it.”
CF: What do you hope to accomplish with this event? If you achieved your mission, what would that look like?
AF: There’s a couple levels in my head of achieving the mission. The first level of achieving the mission is like–
CS: Eating well.
AF: Eating well and having a great time together. And that leads me directly into the second level that I’m beginning to understand: how do we really form a community that holds up a value of food and holds up a value of ecological living and holds them in tandem? And I really think that if we conversate and eat well that’s going to happen. And then if we have more student involvement in food justice in Seattle or food justice on campus, that’s gonna be grand too. But I think really the key is allowing food and sustainable ecological living to enter into the sphere of our community.
CS: Yeah. I mean, we’re also lucky that we chose something to focus on that naturally brings people together.
AF: For millennia.
CS: Yeah. I find it such a spiritual thing, so we’re connecting that. Here’s something we all enjoy without fail, hopefully, and here’s a way to make it even better and more accessible for everyone else as well.
CF: Why should students care about food justice? There are so many issues that are pulling our focus right now, why is this one important?
AF: I think it’s important on a lot of levels. I think it’s important, first and foremost perhaps, or rather most clearly, because what you put into your body really matters. Our bodies are ecosystems and the quality of what goes in allows you to be energetic, allows you to function highly, allows you to enjoy yourself more. And then I think you can expand that metaphor in reverse. In the same way that you think about your body as an ecosystem, your body as something you have to nurture, the ecosystem as a whole is something we have to nurture. In the same way that really good food nurtures our bodies, really good ecological living nurtures the whole system of life.
CS: Which really comes back to us anyways.
AF: Totally. You can step out of focusing on humanity and you can step right back into it because it’s all a connected system. And then finally I’d like to add that it’s just so fun. It’s really a celebration about what’s so good about life.
CS: And from a medical standpoint too, you learn so much about nutrition and our film this year, “Apple Pushers,” tackles a lot of ideas that SU people should be familiar with: integration and food deserts, areas that don’t have access to food other than, like, a 7-11 on the corner. And the justice for those who work in food. You learn so much about nutrition and how you’re supposed to be – as a nursing student, how you’re supposed to be teaching your patients “eat this, blah blah blah.” Well, if they’re living in a place where fresh fruit isn’t available, then that’s impossible. So for me personally there’s the nutrition and health aspect of it too. And it’s true that it’s nurturing your soul. When you feel good you’re able to do better. Eating good food is an ideally simple solution to that.
CF: Finally, my most important question: if you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be and why?
CS: Oh my gosh. A beet.
AF: I was also going to say beet. But I think I’ll change.
CS: I could be an artichoke. I’ll be an artichoke. That is my second favorite.
AF: Okay, but you have to say why. Because I was going to switch to kale if you were going to stay on beet, but I can very easily stay on beet.
CS: Oh gosh, now that I’m thinking about it more, I just like most vegetables. And I like the way they look. I’m a visual person, so I would like to be an artichoke. But kale has more nutrients, you know?
AF: It’s okay. You can be beautiful and substance-less if you want to be, Claire.
CS: I guess that’s what I’m feeling for here.
AF: I would be a beet. Because beets are the sugar of the earth, soaking up the soil and holding it as brilliant color, holding it as taste and sweet crispness.
CS: You can use it for everything.
AF: You can use everything in it. You can use the leaves.
CF: I think this is the most poetic description of a beet I’ve ever heard.
CS: You can make beet cake.
AF: Oh my goodness. You can bake it and just eat it with a fork.
CS: Cold with a salad.
AF: There’s no way you can’t eat a beet.