Student leaders in Calvin’s Food Recovery Network (FRN) faced an unexpected problem during their event on Friday: they had to keep pulling up chairs to accommodate a crowd much larger than anticipated.
Though they planned for 30 or 40 to attend, nearly 80 people packed into a Van Noord classroom on Oct. 23 to celebrate Food Day. At the event, participants listened to a presentation by biology professor David Koetje, played Jeopardy trivia games and ate a healthy dinner that included food grown in Calvin’s community garden.
Calvin’s Food Day event, hosted by the Calvin Food Recovery Network, was one of thousands held nationwide that weekend to celebrate good food and push for improved policies surrounding food production and consumption.
“We believe that we need to expose our Calvin community to thinking about our diet and food system [and how it] is broken right now,” said Joey Budi, a student leader of the FRN.
“Problems of poor nutrition, lack of access to fresh food, insufficient funds and food waste are not new, and it is obvious that our methods need some reform,” added Martin Cervantes, another student leader.
“However, rather than just preach the pitfalls of the system, we want to encourage and bring attention to healthy practices, highlight the work others are doing in the community and support their efforts too,” said Cervantes.
This year, the theme of Food Day was “Toward a Greener Diet,” which encouraged participants to eat healthy meals that are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and small amounts of sustainably raised protein. Ideally, these are “all produced with care for the environment, farm animals and the people who grow, harvest and serve it,” according to the Food Day website.
Professor Koetje’s presentation focused on this theme of making sustainable food choices, and he discussed both characteristics of healthy ecosystems and potential pitfalls of the typical American diet in terms of environmental impact and health risks. Drawing from Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,” Koetje advised those present to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Dinner after the presentation included chicken and pepper fajitas with green salad, the kale and arugula coming straight from Calvin’s community garden. Students also made a fresh blueberry-banana-kale smoothie and power balls from peanut butter, flax seed and chocolate, a recipe from a Calvin kinesiology student.
“We were floored by the amount of people that joined us for this event,” said Cervantes.
“Not only did our volunteers come out, but also friends, families, professor Koetje, our advisor Steve McBride and [several members from] our partner organizations,” added Cervantes.
The Calvin FRN is a chapter of the nationwide Food Recovery Network, an organization that gathers food from college dining halls that would otherwise go to waste and donates it to community nonprofits that feed the hungry.
Some of the Calvin FRN’s local partners include Matthew’s House, Degage Ministries, South End Community Ministry, Safe Haven and Supper House of the St. Alphonsus Church. Budi explained that another purpose of Food Day at Calvin was to celebrate the partnerships with these organizations. To that end, Mike Cartwright from Degage Ministries and Britann from Supper House joined the Calvin community in the evening’s festivities.
“It was truly a blessing … to see such a great turnout at the event,” said Cervantes.
“We hope that events like this begin to raise questions about our food-related issues, [and] that we begin discussing, thinking and challenging the modus operandi of our food system. … Ultimately, a healthier planet and population is a goal that we all share.”