October is Food Month and Farm to School Month, so naturally there were lots of activities in Connecticut schools and colleges. I got to sample of few of them.
New Haven Food Summit
On October 19, New Haven City Hall was the site of the New Haven Food Summit for the release of the New Haven Food Action Plan. The Plan’s goals are to
• increase access to healthy food for all people in New Haven,
• strengthen New Haven’s local food economy and
• encourage healthy food choices through education and marketing efforts.
Strategies for the third goal include integrating food system and nutrition education into comprehensive health education curricula in all grades for all students and establishing school garden programs or partnerships in all New Haven Public Schools. (See the article about the School Garden Resource Center at Common Ground High School below.) Will Allen of Growing Power provided a keynote talk after a delicious lunch that was prepared by the Summit’s attendees, including many students, under the guidance of local chefs.
Southern Connecticut State University
The next Monday, I met with three teachers at Southern Connecticut State University to talk about their food production work on campus and efforts to encourage the growing of more hops in Connecticut. They have a student garden and an orchard. They are planning a vineyard and perhaps plantings of hops on part of the seven acres they’d like to develop for food production. There may be a permaculture class next summer to help design those seven acres.
University of New Haven
On Food Day, the University of New Haven held a panel discussion and a showing of “Fresh”, a documentary on the food system.
The panel included a health professional, a representative of CitySeed, which runs the farmers markets in New Haven, a chef and administrator from Sodexo, the food service provider, and me. We learned that the college composts the food wastes from one of its dining halls and is planning a college food garden for the spring. It will join Yale, Wesleyan, UConn, Conn College, SCSU and probably other colleges which have student farms.
The next day, I talked to a senior class at Hall High School in West Hartford that is studying food and agriculture for the semester. They are also planning to create a school garden.
Later I visited the newly created Hartford Culinary Academy in the old Weaver High School. A chef friend who is teaching there will plant garlic with his students and grow greens over the winter to familiarize his students with where food comes from.
That evening, his students served local food they’d made to the participants in the Hartford Environmental Summit, where local food production was one of the major themes.
The Hartford Food System and Knox Parks are adding multi-acre farms to the community gardens and smaller farms they already operate in town. They are also working with CT NOFA and the city of Hartford to create a certificate program in local food production at Capitol Community College.
League of Women Voters
The last of this string of events was at the Trumbull Vo-Ag Center sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Although the panel included the Commissioner of Agriculture, who talked about the efforts to increase Connecticut Agriculture, and CT NOFA vice president John Turenne talking about his work bringing good local food to schools and colleges, I was most struck by Dr. David Katz, who works in chronic disease prevention at Griffin Hospital. He sees a serious societal collapse if we don’t change the trends in chronic diseases and makes very clear connections to the food we eat and the exercise we do and our health. Check him out on Youtube.
Lucy Nolan from End Hunger CT also was on the panel. She talked about the political work it took to get soda machines removed from schools, which fit right in with Dr. Katz’s prevention message.
During last month, Green Village Initiative continued its work to create a school garden at every public school in Bridgeport and celebrated the beginning of its farm in town.
Real Food Challenge
I’ve since learned that over 40,000 students took action last week on campuses all over the country for Food Day as part of the Real Food Challenge. As stated in the Challenge’s blog, “Why food? Why now?" Student leaders will tell you:
• If you’re concerned about energy and climate change... Our food and agriculture sectors contribute a full 33% of all greenhouse-causing gasses.
• If you’re worried about the economy... CNN reports that 5 out of the 7 worst paying jobs in America are in the foodservice sector.
• If you’re worried about our health... The Center for Disease Control predicts that the youngest generation of Americans today (us!) will live shorter lives than their parents (for the first time in American history!), because of the food they eat.”
One of the highlights of Food Day was the premiere of Anna Lappe’s short film comparing industrial and sustainable farms. See it at www.foodmyths.org.
This infographic makes many of the same points in a poster, comparing Agroecological and Industrial food systems.
If you want to know more about the food movement see Michael Pollan’s recent article in the NY Times.
I encourage you to take advantage of the resources in this newsletter as you work with your students on important food issues.
Healthy food and exercise are critical to a healthy future. School gardens are one avenue there. It will likely take many more of us being involved before we get to that future.