Celebrating Food Day at Bon Appétit: Grow Your Own!

Started by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day is an annual nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, and a movement to create more of it. This Wednesday, October 24, Bon Appétit locations all across America will proudly celebrate Food Day and its five principles:

• Promoting safer, healthier diets
• Supporting sustainable and organic farms
• Reducing hunger
• Reforming factory farms to protect the environment
• Supporting fair working conditions for food and farmworkers

Last year, Food Day fell a week after the TEDXFruitvale conference we hosted on labor, so our events focused on farmworkers. This year, we’re encouraging our guests to get involved by growing some of their own food, and if they’re students, encouraging them to join Campus Farmers!

Campus Farmers: A Seed is Born

This new, social-media-based community was created to help college students involved on university farms and gardens connect with one another, share photos and documents, and get advice. (Read all about it in this great story for TakePart.com.) It’s a joint project of the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation (our nonprofit arm, which in 2008 released a Student Garden Guide as a downloadable PDF), and Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit community of 25,000 people from 100 countries who are growing their own food and helping others to do the same. KGI was behind the successful grassroots campaign in 2008 to create a garden on the White House lawn.

BAMCO Foundation Fellow Carolina Fojo (left) with the Gallaudet Garden team and their first harvest

Campus Farmers grew out of the frustration that former BAMCO Foundation Fellow  Carolina Fojo experienced when she was trying to start a garden at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, along with General Manager Davina Kwong and a few students. Carolina found herself searching the Internet for business plans and garden designs, even though she knew that plenty of schools had done exactly what she was trying to do. But since farm volunteers turn over as students graduate, there was no central place to go for advice and sample documents. The idea for an online community was born.

“Starting a campus farm can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to reinvent the wheelbarrow,” says Emily McGinty, Duke University ’13, who has been involved with the community garden and farm at her campus in Durham, NC, since her freshman year. “When we were starting the Duke farm, we spent months asking for permission and trying to figure out budgets and best practices. With Campus Farmers, we could have had those answers in seconds.”

Emily and BAMCO Foundation East Coast Fellow Nicole Tocco are working together to seed Campus Farmers with students at schools around the country, including BAMCO’s dozens of university clients that already support farms (see map).

Food Day Celebrations

In addition to encouraging young farmers, Bon Appétit Management Company accounts are celebrating Food Day with a variety of activities in keeping with the Food Day principles. A few examples:

  • At Gallaudet, the campus will host booths on topics such as animal welfare, obesity, organic and non-organic foods, genetically modified foods, food and water shortages, and more. Local restaurants and nearby farms will offer food samples and staff will give demonstrations on bee-keeping, pickling and preserving, and other techniques.
  • Carleton College just screened The Greenhorns, a documentary about the burgeoning crop of young farmers (watch trailer), and will be offering a sustainable coffee cupping and more.
  • Santa Clara University will celebrate with a “Sustainability Day” offering information on the  ‘grow your own’ program as well as highlighting the campus garden; and a coffee cupping from Santa Cruz Coffee Roasters’ AgroEco coffee from CAN Unite.
  • At Albion College, Bon Appétit and the student-run campus farm will partner for an interactive lunch service. 

Food for lunch will have a focus on local sourcing, with an emphasis on food from the campus farm. Executive Chef Jason Jones and his team will offer local products at each station in the café, which will be full of pictures of the Student Farm and the students that manage it. Information tables will give guests a chance to ask and receive information about the student farm, sign up to volunteer or learn more.
  • Whittier College will be gathering at the campus farm to learn about gardening from farmer Nic Romano from VR Green Farms and enjoy food from VR and the campus farm.
  • St. Olaf will be having a chili cook off, coffee cupping, and a lecture on aquaponics.
  • Roger Williams University will host an interactive Plant Your Own Herbs table: guests can choose the herb(s) they like, plant the seeds, and grow them on their window sills. The Student Garden group will be there to promote the garden, recruit new members, and “poll” the community of the possibility of doing an on-campus CSA.

Find a celebration in your area using Food Day’s map tool. And check out our Facebook Food Day photo album for updates and photos from our Food Day celebrations around the country!