Davis, as both a civic community and a campus, is often thought of as a progressive area for those interested in making sure food is grown organically, humanely and justly.
Real Food Week (RFW), which began yesterday, continues throughout the week with events to put students’ food habits in the limelight and stimulate conversation amongst those who may not be familiar with how the vegetables in their Mongolian barbecue traveled from the field to the dining commons.
The members of Students for Sustainable Agriculture (SSA) have been planning this year’s RFW for most of the past year, said freshman member Michael Strom.
“Real Food Week has taken place over the past few years,” Strom said. “But this year, we’ve really been open to new suggestions and possibilities.”
Strom, who has taken an active leadership role in SSA despite his freshman status, said that the major point of the week is to spur thought on the concept of what “real” food actually means.
“A lot of students probably don’t know what we mean by that,” Strom said. “It’s food that is socially and environmentally responsible – and that includes things like not using pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers – humane treatment of animals and just treatment of workers.”
Today, the latter will be highlighted at a movie screening in Giedt 1006 at 7 p.m. The film being shown is Children in the Field, which covers child labor in agriculture.
Other events throughout the week include daily garden gatherings, a potluck, speakers from various groups and a rally to take place on Wednesday.
Liz Fitzgerald is a senior American studies major and SSA member who is helping plan parts of the week.
“Davis has always been kind of an agricultural institution, and food is definitely an important part of the community,” Fitzgerald said. “But RFW brings to light some of the social justice issues that people might not be as aware of…It’s not just the kind of field the food comes from, but what kind of people are making it happen.”
Fitzgerald helped bring members from the Coalition for Immokalee Workers and the Student Farmworker Alliance to UC Davis to speak about illegal agricultural labor practices in Florida.
“We’re really trying to take advantage of their experiences and their stories to bring the abuse of workers in Immokalee to light,” Fitzgerald said.
Organizers and students plan to rally on Wednesday against Sodexo’s involvement with growers, who the students believe have partaken in unfair or illegal labor practices.
Genna Lipari, junior environmental biology and management student and co-coordinator for RFW, is excited about the potential for the events.
“It’s easy to say food should be this, food should be that, but we have on campus a place to rally and it’s exciting to finally get to talk to people about food and build a community around food,” Lipari said. “It’s definitely a positive atmosphere; a celebratory event about something students can be directly involved in.”
Lipari added that RFW is tied-in to a larger, national initiative called Real Food Challenge, which is campaigning for students to take direct responsibility for the $4 billion spent on campus dining every year.
BRIAN GERSON can be reached at email@example.com.