Food takes much more work than most people realize, and the food system can be complicated.
Pacific Lutheran University’s second Food Symposium kicked off Wednesday night with keynote speaker Thomas Pogge, professor of philosophy at Yale University, who spoke about the Millennium Development Goals and global hunger issues.
Three panels of four, each with two professors and two community membersfilled Thursday. The panels dealt with diversity, justice and sustainability.
Between panels was a food expo, with poster presentations, snacks and demonstrations from Dining and Culinary Services.
Rachel Haxtema, AmeriCORPS VISTA Healthy Parkland Coordinator, was very involved with preparations for the Food Symposium.
Haxtema said the Food Symposium is a community event somewhat initiated by PLU’s philosophy department, which held the Food Symposium coordinated by Erin McKenna about two years ago.
She also said that this year’s focus was mainly on food production and animal ethics, while this year’s focus is more on community issues around food.
Haxtema works in the Center for Community Engagement and Services (CCES), and she’s working on The Healthy Parkland Initiative, figuring out on ways to get healthy food to low income people in the community.
One of the projects she works on with Pacific Lutheran University and Trinity Lutheran Church is the monthly community meal, which is normally vegetarian because it has less of an impact on the environment. Haxtema said it also reveals delicious vegetarian meals, which are not known to many people.
But this month’s community meal was special for the Food Symposium. The community meal, doubling as Thursday night’s symposium dinner, used squash from Trinity Lutheran’s garden across the street, which is called The Garden of Edible Grace. “We’re trying to find as much local food as possible,” Haxtema said.
Senior Shunying Wang was one of the volunteers who helped Haxtema by cutting, peeling and dicing the squash.
“I thought it would be fun to come and prepare the dinner for the community,” Wang said.
The squash was roasted and used in a hearty salad, which also included greens, eggs, onions, shallots and berries — all local food items from Holly Foster of Zestful Gardens and also from Terry’s Berries.
“I think the main focus of this meal is to teach people how to eat and cook locally and that there are foods available in our community right here in Parkland,” Haxtema said. “It’s not impossible, it’s difficult especially this time of year, but it’s not impossible to eat locally or at least try to find some local foods to put into your diet.”
Haxtema explained several benefits of eating locally or from one’s own garden, using the products of The Garden of Edible Grace as an example.
“Because they’re grown across the street, there’s no transportation costs, we know exactly what went into the soil, what went onto the plants — which was totally organic and no pesticides or chemicals — so that makes it healthier food and more fun to eat.”
Haxtema also pointed out that knowing the work put into food helps one to gain an appreciation and understanding. This is also why she said this year’s Food Symposium includes farmers and people from United Farm Workers.
“I think there’s an invisible side to our food system that we don’t know a lot about where people are working really hard for really low wages doing really difficult labor,” Haxtema said.
She said many do not often think about these types of things. “Learning to grow your own food helps you understand what goes into growing really good food, but it also helps you respect the work of other people as well,” Haxtema said.
She also said this is one of the reasons why Thursday was so focused on local food options.
However, she said the larger Food Symposium is to get people thinking about the food system in new ways and to hear new thoughts about the philosophy and ethics of food.
But she said she hopes the events also help people to learn about what’s happening in this community. “We hope to bring global and local into the discussion,” Haxtema said.
There is an opportunity to work in the community gardens at Trinity Lutheran and at PLU this Saturday. “It’s a great way to learn about gardening and see how to grow food in the Pacific Northwest,” Haxtema said.
All food from both gardens is donated to the local food pantry. ◼︎