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This semester students at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan are taking a Food Quest course led by Professor Tara Deubel. One of Professor Deubel’s key texts is the Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability course book from the Northwest Earth Institute. Read below for excerpts from an article just published about the students’ learning process:

In all its capacities, food has long played a role in human social and cultural systems. The consumption and preparation of food defines nations, unites traditions, builds families. And as the world has continued to develop and change, so too does the food industry and various food-philosophy movements.

The Food Quest, an anthropology course at Oakland University explores the ways in which humans produce, consume and relate to food in a global, cross-cultural perspective.

“Understanding the human relationship to food illuminates the relationship we have with our larger environment,” said Tara Deubel, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology. “From a global perspective, we need to address why people continue to die of hunger and malnutrition in 2012 when adequate food resources exist.”

“Locally, we need to ask similar questions about why many residents of Detroit are unable to access healthy food on a daily basis in an area now considered to be a “food desert” due to its lack of food resources,” Dr. Deubel continued. “It is critical to re-examine the local and global systems we have put in place and advocate more sustainable alternatives that encourage smaller-scale, local food production and more healthy eating habits.”

The course covers a wide range of topics including changes in human eating patterns, the globalization of the food industry, transnational food politics, debates concerning genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the organic and local food movements, malnutrition and hunger in developing countries, food rituals and eating disorders…

As they learn about the local and global impact of the food industry, several students have developed passions for the local and organic food movements.

“I would like to see the concept of urban gardening spread throughout Detroit and for more people to get involved and to start eating real food, not processed food from the gas stations and little grocers,” said Katherine VanBelle, a senior student majoring in Environmental Sciences. “I found it sad to hear that some city kids think food comes from a gas station. I feel that it’s reasons like this that make us one of the unhealthiest cities in America.”

For the full article, click here.

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This article just in from Axiom News per the effects of Northwest Earth Institute’s programs and the work of Clevelanders in creating more sustainable local food systems. Thanks to all the people taking part in this inspiring effort! Read on to see what Clevelanders are doing as a result of participation in Menu for the Future.

With its array of homemade goat cheese, pasta made with basil pesto grown onsite, chili with local venison and spicy collard greens, a local food potluck last night captures the difference a growing underground movement around local food is making in Cleveland.

The potluck’s location, Gardens Under Glass, is a story in itself. Situated in Cleveland’s downtown Galleria mall, the core of Gardens Under Glass is a demonstration greenhouse with food grown there now used in some of the food court businesses…Then there’s the fact the potluck was held at all.

Clevelanders talk local food.

Capping off six weeks of small group conversations around food, it was intended to be a celebration of what the more than 30 people engaged in these conversations have learned, and the new micro-communities they’re beginning to create.

Perhaps most powerful is how these conversations are sparking change at the citizen level, as people shared at last night’s event, says champion for the effort Nancy King Smith.

A young couple has been inspired to start growing some food even though they don’t have any garden space. So they put buckets of dirt on their balcony and have planted several vegetables.

Someone else has learned more about CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), and now he and his family have joined one.

A woman noted that in spite of her busy schedule, she has a new commitment to put time into her food choices and preparation because that’s what’s important to her.

The owner of a local business  is now committing to become a City Fresh stop and provide fresh, local, sustainably-grown produce in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood.

One urban farmer noted that through these conversations he could “see the light bulbs” of understanding going off for people.

Based on a curriculum developed by the Northwest Earth Institute, called Menu for the Future, the conversations spin out of handbook readings and a set of questions. They have been credited with changing the nature of the food conversation in the community of Port Townsend, Washington.

The goal for the budget-less Cleveland project, relaying entirely on word-of-mouth, is that 50 groups have met by the end of the year, with a farmers’ potluck in the fall to celebrate and share experiences.

“They had a fall potluck in Port Townsend, and people did share some pretty exciting things that they were motivated to do as a result,” says Nancy, noting she’s hoping for a similar experience in Cleveland.

The Menu for the Future movement was sparked at last year’s Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit, an initiative to turn the city into a world-leader in sustainable practice.

For the initiative, a theme is chosen for each year, with events, education and activities all lifting it up. Local food is the 2012 theme.

The city’s chief sustainability officer, Jenita McGowan, who is the lead connection point on this citizen-driven project, points to Menu for the Future as a favourite example of several highlighting the growth of the local food ecology in Cleveland.

It certainly aligns with what she sees as the greatest possibilities for the local food movement in the city in 2012, which is “lots of unsolicited comments from regular Clevelanders around the fact that their city is a leader in local food, that they’re proud about it and know how to participate in it.”

For the full article, please click here.

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