November 16, 2014

Oxfam Hunger Banquet Q&A

Emily Metallic is president of IU's Oxfam Club.
What is a Hunger Banquet and how does it engage themes of Themester 2014?
The Hunger Banquet is an interactive simulation of inequality as it relates to the global food system. The signature Oxfam America event began 41 years ago, and this will be the Oxfam Club at IU's fourth Hunger Banquet. The event is one of Oxfam's key outreach tools as a humanitarian and development organization that seeks lasting solution to hunger, poverty and injustice.

The Hunger Banquet touches upon several themes of the Eat, Drink, Think Themester, including the systems, distribution, politics and rights associated with food. Through engaging role playing, the Hunger Banquet allows guests to better conceptualize the reality of poverty and hunger, as well as reflect upon its implications and connection to their own lives. 
Where does the banquet locate the problem of food insecurity? Does it focus on a region?
The Hunger Banquet takes a global approach, highlighting food insecurity in the U.S. and around the world. Oxfam is a human rights-based organization, and believes all humans have much to learn from each other, regardless of nationality. The scope of the Hunger Banquet reflects its stance of international solidarity.
What consequences and solutions of food insecurity does the banquet present?
When one does not know where their next meal is coming from, education, health, and well being suffer dramatically. The banquet presents these individual challenges, but also its collective negative impact on economic development and political stability. The banquet calls for more resilient food systems that can bear climate change impacts, more efficient food aid delivery and improved social and environmental practices in supply chains of major food corporations. But most inspiring is its call for conscious, engaged consumers to use their dollars and citizen power to take action to create a better food system. 

The Oxfam Hunger Banquet will take place Tuesday, November 18th, in the Union Street Center Auditorium at 7:30pm.

Ashli Hendricks
2014 Intern

November 11, 2014

Fighting for “Real” Food in College: The Bittman Enlightenment

As the special events coordinator intern for Themester this year I was honored to help plan one of our largest events of the semester, being a panel discussion with New York Times food writer Mark Bittman. I gained invaluable knowledge on the logistics of planning large-scale events, I got to meet the “Bitt” man himself, and I ate some really great food along the way. The whole experience was wonderful—for the most part. There’s something that Bittman said that has unsettled me. When our panel asked him what college students could do to have a better and more sustainable food outlook he said, among other things, “to demand more out of our campus foods.”

Having worked at a fairly sustainable on-campus dining hall for most of my undergrad, I wondered how much more RPS could do. However, after a discussion with some IU faculty members I realized something. There seems to be a common misconception that our pre-packaged and pre-made foods are cheaper than our fresh food. I have done the ordering for a dining hall, folks—this is simply not the case. The only advantage that pre-packaged and pre-made foods have over fresh foods is that they have a longer shelf life. It seems ludicrous to me that, with thousands of people needing to be fed everyday, that we should be so concerned about shelf life. I now see that Bittman was right: we are not using fresh foods to our advantage on campus.

What is more, we are also not using our staff to our advantage. With outdated and tired recipes, some dining halls aren’t incorporating any new, fresh foods or ingredients into their menu. What is a bigger travesty is that we are not using our staff to the best of their ability either. RPS staff members bridge a wide array of cultures, and many of these workers from different countries and cultures do not get to express themself or their culture’s food ways. I hope that this has also resonated with other on-campus workers in the way that it has with me. I agree with Bittman now, we should demand more out of our campus food: it’s something we can very easily demand from the untapped resources we currently have available to us.

Shelby Plummer
2014 Intern

November 3, 2014

"The Politics of Midwestern Meat: Labor, Business, and the Environment" Panel Q&A

Dr. Carl Weinberg, Senior Lecturer at College of Arts and Sciences and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of History, organized the panel and is moderating the event.

Why did you decide to organize a lecture series on meat industry perspectives?

I've been teaching The Meat We Eat for several years as a senior seminar in the Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP), and have been taking students on field trips and inviting guest speakers to class.  For instance, we've visited Maple Valley Farm in Monroe County, a sustainable farm, and the JBS/Swift hog processing plant in Louisville. And last spring when I taught the course, Josh Trenary of the Pork Producers and Barbara Sha Cox of Indiana CAFO watch, who tend to see things very differently, to say the least, each came to speak to the class, on separate  days.  

But when I found out about this year's Themester theme, I realized I had an opportunity to bring all of these different folks to us and to expand the conversation to include the campus and community. We're still doing field trips, but students and others who attend the event will have the opportunity to hear a diverse range of perspectives from people who are rarely in the same room together.   That's a different kind of experience than hearing and meeting them separately. And hopefully an educational one.

 How did you choose speakers to invite?

In addition to including people I had previously invited to class or who had hosted field trips (such as Larry Howard of Maple Valley Farm), I wanted to see if we could hear from someone representing a perspective that is often marginalized in public discussions of the meat industry: the voices of workers. So, I also invited Gary Holland, who was involved in a union organizing drive by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 75 at a pork processing plant in Cincinnati, where workers won their first contract with the company this past spring. It's important to recognize that workers are not simply victims of rough working conditions and low pay, but they are stepping up to do something about it.  And I also invited Indiana State Senator Mark Stoops, who represents Bloomington, and who also has been outspoken in the Indiana General Assembly on some of the issues related to meat and agriculture in Indiana.

What are the foreseeable challenges and successes of bringing these parties together?

One challenge is that each speaker has only a short time to speak and must be willing to entertain questions from the audience on a wide range of topics. And those topics can be intensely controversial. But I expect that the speakers will be fully up to the challenge and that the result will be a civil and thought-provoking conversation. I'm thankful to the speakers for agreeing to do this. Also, we will have plenty time for questions and comments from the audience, and as moderator, I will do everything I can to encourage wide participation. 

The Politics of Midwestern Meat panel will take place Thursday, November 13, at 7:30 pm in the IMU's Georgian Room.

Ashli Hendricks
2014 Intern