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 With outdated and tired recipes, some dining halls aren’t incorporating any new, fresh foods or ingredients into their menu.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

No comments:

Post a Comment