The recent nationwide local foods movement has finally hit campus. From Earth Day to May Day, the recently formed WesFRESH student group has created a schedule of events to focus the community around food politics and raise awareness regarding the origins of the food offered on campus. A weeklong schedule of events includes cooking demos, movie screenings, a foraging expedition, and a food panel featuring area farmers and Bon Appétit staff.

“Over winter break I realized that so many groups all have food issues as their interest but that there is no unity between the groups,” said Sophie Ackoff ’11, a member of WesFRESH. “I really wanted to get into food activism and plan events and campaigns to create an open dialogue on campus about our food.”

Several student groups, such as the Wesleyan Farmers’ Market, Long Lane Farm, and the Sustainable Dining Committee, focus on changing dining policy on campus and creating awareness of the local food movement. WesFRESH formed as an attempt to promote collaboration between these groups.

“I see WesFRESH as being a union of all these different groups on campus working towards sustainability,” said Melody Oliphant ’13, a member of WesFRESH. “We are trying to capitalize on the events from Earth Week and use that energy to make people think about the impact of their food on the environment and different social issues.”

The 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day created an opportunity for environmental groups on campus to create events that would raise awareness about sustainability issues. A weeklong Sleep Out on Foss Hill aimed to create a community to support clean energy in Connecticut. The environmentally themed movies Home and Impact Man were shown and different speakers were brought to campus to talk about environmentalism.

Several WesFRESH events are scheduled to take place this week. On Tuesday, a local foods cooking demo by Chef Anne Gallagher from Plow-to-Plate will take place in the Woodhead Lounge at 4:15 p.m. On Thursday, a foraging expedition will set off from Weshop at 4:15 p.m. and Food Inc. will be screened at 8 p.m. in Film Hall.

“Sustainability is a weighty word that kind of gets tossed around, but the first thing that comes to mind is local, organic and fresh food,” Oliphant said. “We are trying to make people think about and talk about the food they eat.”

WesFRESH has also been working with Michael Strumpf, Resident District Manager of Bon Appétit, to incorporate more local food into campus dining. Bon Appétit has set a national goal of having 20 percent of the foods served in each of its campus facilities come from local sources. Currently, only eight percent of the food served by Bon Appétit on campus is obtained locally. Bon Appétit currently has contracts with Urban Oaks and Starlight Gardens, two local farms that supply fresh produce to the dining halls every week.

“As a company they have to take into account what students want,” Ackoff said. “Michael Strumpf is worried about limiting variety because of negative student response.”

Events like red meatless Tuesdays and Fridays and the Low-Carbon Diet Day last week indicate that Bon Appétit is striving to promote sustainability. Even though there is more the company can do to go green, the students in WesFRESH are excited by the commitment that Bon Appétit has shown in their first three years on campus.

“They made a decision to serve cage-free eggs after the CEO of Bon Appétit visited a farm and was disgusted by the state of chickens in tiny cages,” Oliphant said. “Granted, we have a long way to go with Bon Appétit, but they are making an effort. They just have to see that students want more.”

Strumpf has mentioned the possibility of building a greenhouse on campus to provide the dining halls with fresh produce during the late fall and early spring. Students are working with the administration now and construction could potentially begin this summer.

WesFRESH is also looking ahead to next year in hopes of continuing the campaign for sustainable food.

“Wesleyan is a liberal community so what does it say about the difficulty in creating change on campus and how we can make those changes in not as educated or affluent communities?” Duncan said. “That sort of change and reform can take on a paternalistic tone, so making it an awareness campaign rather than a ‘we know what’s good for you’ campaign is important.”

Food inequality in Middletown is another issue that the group wants to work on next year by helping the North End Action Team create a farmers’ market in the North End and planting gardens in public elementary schools. They also hope to begin work with the public school system in Middletown.

“Food inequality is such a social justice issue,” Oliphant said. “Poor people are forced to eat processed food or fast food because it’s cheaper. It’s really important that it’s a grassroots movement, but you need the government policies too.”

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