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FEB. 2, 2015

Food Cornerstone Day 

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Arrington Mc Coy, Dean of Students

Food choice is an intensely personal decision, and also is deeply interconnected by many strands to the wider world. What we eat can be influenced by what’s available, the food culture we’ve grown up in, our economic means, our ethical code, our taste preferences, our personal health considerations and our hunger levels to name a few. With so many factors going into the bite on the end of our fork it is no surprise that our Food Cornerstone day could only begin to scratch the surface of this huge topic.

We started the day, appropriately, in the kitchen—learning that the basics of homemade bread aren’t so hard to master. Grace taught students how to make basic yeast bread dough, and then students concocted their specific recipes—cinnamon raisin, cheese, honey and dried fruit among others.

After setting our “dough babies” aside to rise we spent the morning with Leah Erlbaum, from the Dragons Global Speaker Series discussing traditional farming in the global context—with a particular focus on Bolivian farmers. We spent some time discussing the complexities of NAFTA and the on the ground realities this trade agreement.

Food Blog 2

Following the mornings activities, we shared a lunch of soup and homemade bread and discussed how globalization has turned something that used to be very regional and seasonal—like food—into a commodity that can appear on grocery store shelves twelve months out of the year across the globe.

In the afternoon, we headed to the grocery store—the place many folks today mistakenly link with the origin of their meals. Armed with a list of questions—like “How much does a dozen eggs cost here?” and “Who do you think this store is marketing to?” and “Any observations about the way the cereal aisle is set up?” students became anthropologists—checking out the offerings at our local Bi Lo and Food Matters grocery stores.

Food Blog 3

Additionally, while out for the afternoon, students had the very pressing matter of purchasing dinner for the evening. What can you get with $2.60 per person (their dinner shopping budget)? Lofty morals aside this is the question where the rubber meets the road so to speak. With all those diverse reasons that go into choosing what we eat and all our students with different priorities, this was the moment I was most excited to observe. After several weeks at The Outdoor Academy of having limited choice in terms of what they get to eat, I wondered if we would be feasting on a dinner of Fruit Loops and Doritos.

As it turned out students picked a veggie and rice stir-fry with a side of the highest quality meat they could find, as well as green beans, bread and fruit with whipped cream for dessert.

The questions are many and the answers are many shades of gray, but the Food Cornerstone Day was a great launching pad for future discussions over meals, and soon enough over chores out in our garden.

Arrington Mc Coy, Dean of Students