On Jan. 12, a team of six Graceland University students along with sustainability faculty coordinator, Jen Abraham-White, embarked on a trip to Iowa State University to attend a seminar on food community systems. The day would consist of a mix of presentations that pertain to community food systems and, thereby, community health. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, the team was off before sunrise, ecstatic about the events to follow!
Upon our arrival, we were able to take a look at posters made by other attendees, displaying their groups’ triumphs and innovations. During this time, coffee and breakfast were served, catering to a networking-heavy atmosphere. After some time had passed, a few authors presented their posters, igniting the discussions to come.
Following the poster presentations, a panel of speakers came forward to discuss what their brands have implemented within their communities to have a positive impact on food systems. A food system can be recognized as the flow of food — from production to consumption and then to waste — and how it impacts the community at large. Unfortunately, knowledge of these systems are less understood than realized, and many remain ignorant as to where their food comes from and how food affects their day-to-day lives.
In food deserts, like Decatur County, Iowa, the community generally does not have access to the abundance of healthy food options that can be seen in larger-scaled cities. The lack of exposure to healthy food habits have led to a nutrition epidemic, which has not one person to blame, but many factors. At any rate, it is important to bring awareness to these problems, because if we don’t get the conversation started now, the problem will only get worse.
Following lunch, we broke into smaller groups to see different presentations. Among numerous others, some key presentation topics were “building collaborations within farm to institution;” “creating equitable opportunities in food systems for all individuals;” and “asking ourselves, ‘What does it mean to source local foods?’” Each presentation came with its own unique set of ideas, but collectively they can be transplanted to make for a strong offense against the food epidemic seen within our rural communities.
Following the event, the team convened in Des Moines for dinner to recap the day’s events. Through the clanking of utensils and muffled sounds, we discussed the highlights of our day:
Bobbie Moore- “The small group sessions were really interesting!”
Morgan McKnabb- “The ‘edible landscapes’ session was really cool to be a part of. I’m curious to see if we can implement any of their work back at Graceland.”Tabitha Watson- “I enjoyed spending time with people that have like-minded goals. Listening to knowledgeable people with similar perspectives as mine was inspiring.”Gabe Glaser- “Those small group sessions were pretty neat.”Nick Keehler- “The food was really good!”Jen Abraham-White- “It was good to hear the keynote speaker, and the lightning poster presentations were great to see.”
Looking forward, this was an exceptional learning opportunity for all that attended, and the knowledge gained will be seen in the work done thereafter. We will be able to take what we learned and transplant it to Lamoni in the hopes of bettering our community.
One of the biggest takeaways from this event is the importance of community and togetherness. While we can spread awareness and generate momentum on our own, the problem at hand is far too large for any one person. Together, we can make the world a better, healthier place.
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