Students And Farmers Share The CommonTue 13 Sep 2011
Story by Dylan O’Sullivan
It can be hard to eat well while living on a college campus. Discovering fresh local food that is affordable can be a challenge, especially if you are finding your way around a new city. With a busy class schedule and a dinning hall right next door it can be easy to forgo real food that you actually have to cook. Even as someone who cares about what I eat and enjoys cooking it can be hard; but convincing other student to try something new and venture off campus to pick up a fresh zucchini or a couple ears of sweet corn for dinner can be an all but impossible task.
These challenges come at an important time in the evolution of young peoples’ eating habits. For many, it is the first time they are solely in charge of how, what and when they eat. With so many other distractions, fast food and highly processed dorm room snacks can be an easy routine to fall into. Unfortunately, it is a routine that can be hard to kick, even after graduation.
Here at Northeastern University students are trying to make it a little easier for our community to eat better and develop healthier habits. About two and a half years ago students brought up the idea of a farmers market with our administration. Since then Northeastern’s Student Government Association (SGA), staff, and a number of student organizations have been working to make it a reality. It hasn’t been easy, a number of dedicated students have navigated their way through regulations, permits, and skeptical farmers to make it happen.
The students that started the project have graduated but their work has been passed on and in July the SGA launched the first ever Northeastern University Farmers Market. It got off to a great start and generated a lot of excitement with a few hundred students and faculty showing up on the first day. Now, every Wednesday there are tables of whatever fresh produce the season has to offer spread out on Centennial Common in the middle of our campus.
It took a lot of collaboration to finally make it happen. The SGA worked closely with our school administration to get all the necessary approvals for hosting the market. This past spring food, social justice, and environmental student groups on our campus came together to help get the market off the ground. We collaborated with Slow Food NU, Progressive Student Alliance, and the Husky Energy Action Team to find an exited and willing farmer and promote the market on campus. Bringing together this community of people who care about getting fresh health food on our campus may be as valuable a result as the access the market provides.
For me, making the food accessible is only part of what makes a farmers market such a great idea. It also supports our local food system and creates a space for students, faculty, and our neighbors to build a community where food means more than just filling our bellies. Learning the names of our local farmers and eating fresh produce that is in season are great ways to reconnect us to the food we eat and the people that grow it for us.
All too often these connections are lost when our food is just something that comes off a shelf and the furrow, pasture, or orchard are a distant thought at the far end of a long assembly line. Rekindling these connections can make eating fresh healthy food an enjoyable endeavor.
Before I came to Northeastern these connections changed cooking and sharing food from a chore to something I looked forward to. And this enjoyment led to me eating much healthier more sustainable food. But when I got to college it was hard to keep eating the way I wanted to.
The farmers market is a way to share this experience and make it more accessible for fellow students and our surrounding community. By creating an environment that encourages students to eat good sustainable food we hope to improve their eating here on campus and leave them with the impetus to carry on their health habits wherever they go after graduation.
Now that we have our market we will continue to grow and strengthen the connection between students, farmers, and the food we eat. Creating the market is only the beginning and we still have a lot of work to do. But it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully the excitement it has created will help to build it into a sustainable movement that will begin to change the way our campus eats and be yet another victory in the Food Revolution.
About the author: Dylan O’Sullivan is a student at Northeastern University who has spearheaded the farmers market for SGA since spring 2011.
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