What brings people of the greater Sewanee community together better than our love for episcopal gothic tradition? Well food of course!
Last Saturday, Bonner Leader Vanessa Moss, C’20, along with the University Farm and Office of Civic Engagement brought together Sewanee students, faculty, and community members to celebrate and strengthen connections on and off campus. Bringing your own dish, silverware, and plate was the theme of this environmentally conscious event that featured an abundance of catered goods supplemented with dishes from the mountain.
Greening Up the Mountain guest speaker, Jade Clark - owner and operator of Project Fresh, a Memphis-based nonprofit specializing in inner city nutritional education - gave an enlightening narrative about her work in the agricultural industry in higher education and the workforce. She engaged the audience in a casual coffeehouse-esque setting. Conversations centered around how food insecurity within communities harms the health of the populace as well as how unfamiliarity with local resources stunts the ability of residents to obtain fresh and healthy produce.
These topics were especially relevant among the attendees. For a lot of the Sewanee students who attended the ability to bring a dish to the event seemed unnecessarily laborious, despite the fact that the purpose of a potluck is the presence of a multitude of dishes. The reason? A problem rarely addressed by campus communities - how do we teach students about the importance of cooking and caring for their bodies while simultaneously offering pre-made and easily accessible food all day?
This is simply a problem of convenience and economics. There is little to no basic supplies available for cooking such as pots, pans, and baking sheets as well as a lack of basic ingredients and spices such as salt and pepper in dorm kitchens. Another, more prominent obstacle, is that it seems contradictory for students to spend their money on fresh produce when McClurg can provide it for the price already included in the tuition - why pay extra for something you already have? Recognizing how convenient the presence of a consistent dining hall is changes the way we view food, but the same resources aren’t going to be this easy to obtain when students graduate.
Knowing how to cook with limited ingredients, space, and supplies is fundamental for understanding how to function postgraduate, and Greening Up the Mountain shows how community is pivotal for providing balance in nutrition and resources. Life at Sewanee is centered around the next project, the next seminar, the next research opportunity - which leaves little time for students to explore and become familiar with the local resources and local goods available for their consumption. Events such as these cultivate an interest in the greater communities surrounding Sewanee and having the knowledge to create and sustain food systems within the communities that we thrive in.
Students need to take advantage of the opportunities on the mountain to explore and educate themselves on the aspects of cooking and consumerism that they aren’t familiar with. Cooking classes, farm tours, and demonstrations are tools that students at the University can utilize to develop a more cohesive understanding of their own abilities in and out of the kitchen and in the community. Our greater community is one of the best areas in the country to learn these trades - with high agricultural presence and resources within walking distance of students it’s a tremendous resource that is simply being underutilized.