Two Sides to Ohio

Last week (2/22/10) East Coast Fellow Carolina Fojo visited Oberlin College and Case Western University for two very different but very successful events about social issues that relate to the very food we eat. Here’s a rundown of what happened:

Oberlin College:

The Oberlin crowd at my event was pretty liberal, well-versed on many of these issues, and asked some good, challenging questions. What made this event unique, however, was that after my presentation we set up a sort of “Foodie Fair”, in which several on-campus groups (animal rights, slow food, carbon sequestration research, composting/gardening, etc.) put together signs, and set themselves up around the room next door. Once my presentation was done, the crowd shifted to that room to continue the conversation about how to improve the food we eat.

   The “Food Fair” was extremely successful. Here’s one example: The animal rights group, which has been struggling for members since last year, met with several students/organizations that share their interests, and now they’re talking about collaborating with Bon Appétit to bring more vegan options to campus—possibly by collaborating on Low Carbon Diet Day, or even rallying up support to have Meatless Mondays in one of their cafés.

All in all, I think the corporation-skeptical Obies were pleasantly surprised by what they learned, and some are looking forward to working with us in the future.


Case Western Reserve University:

    I also visited Case Western that week, and I think for many of the Case students, this was the first time they had been exposed to the majority of the topics I discussed. After the presentation, one student, clearly overwhelmed by everything he had just heard, said to me: “I don’t know exactly how to say this, but…how haven’t I heard about this whole slavery thing? I mean, I had no idea that was in my tomatoes.” Another student raised the issue of how to make responsible choices as an individual consumer: “We’re just so lucky we have Bon Appétit feeding us food that’s good right now. But what do we do when we get out into the real world?”

Thank You:

A very, very special thanks goes out to Rick Panfil (GM at Oberlin) and Joan Boettcher (nutritionist at Oberlin) for their incredible hospitality and willingness to work with me and with the Oberlin students. Also to Beth Kretschmar (marketing at Case) for being instrumental in coordinating the Case event, and to Jim O’Brien (GM at Case) for chiming in during the event!