Food Day ’12 : tasty learning

Organizations met to showcase local food products and initiatives.

Peter Christodoulou, left, and nutrition junior Chelsey Bowman, right, talk about the benefits of bananas during Tuesday’s Food Day at Coffman Union. The event featured local businesses and organizations that promote healthy, and often homegrown, foods.

Emily Dunker

Peter Christodoulou, left, and nutrition junior Chelsey Bowman, right, talk about the benefits of bananas during Tuesday’s Food Day at Coffman Union. The event featured local businesses and organizations that promote healthy, and often homegrown, foods.

Two professional chefs in University of Minnesota Dining Services uniforms stood at cooking stations locked in a “Top Chef”-like battle in Coffman Union’s Great Hall on Tuesday.

Each rushed to prepare a recipe that was handed out to waiting students.

“If this is what’s in the residence hall, I’ll actually eat it,” biology student Emma King said of one of the recipes.

The festivities were a part of University of Minnesota Food Day 2012, an event where nearly 30 organizations met to showcase local food products and initiatives. Students, staff and community members watched demonstrations, tasted samples and enjoyed a free lunch.

The University’s two-day food celebration coincides with National Food Day on Oct. 24. Developed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest,
National Food Day is a celebration geared toward spreading awareness about food policy and nutrition.

Visitors spent the day speaking with local food distributors about where their products come from and what kind of impact they make on the environment. University groups including Students Against Hunger and the Agricultural Education Club showcased their groups.

The event continues Wednesday, when the focus will shift from experiential learning to in-depth presentations, discussions and a screening of the film “To Make a Farm” in the Coffman Union Theater.

The event is divided into two days to cater to varying levels of knowledge people have about food, said Kristine Igo, associate director of the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute , a co-sponsor of the program.

“I’m hoping that we’re gonna hit students at different points in their interest level around the issues,” she said.

The national event reached the University last year when HFHL organized a one-day, food-centered event.

“It’s kind of a win-win in a lot of ways because there’s a ton of student interest on this campus around food and sustainability and health issues,” Igo said.

This year, students have taken a more active approach to create an event “from students for students,” Igo said.

Senior Eric Sannerud volunteered with HFHL during last year’s event. He said the connections he made drove him to create U Students Like Good Food, a student group that discusses local food systems and their effects on the surrounding community.

“We want to create a space for everyone with an interest in food,” Sannerud said. “So from the biggest [agriculture] person to the local-est of local, there’s a space for them to be at this event.”

This year, the student group is hosting the event with support from HFHL. Sannerud, the student coordinator this year, said he hopes students will become more aware of the food they eat by attending Food Day.

Many of the organizations taking part in Food Day are trying to expand sustainable food options in the Twin Cities. Others donate portions of their proceeds to hunger prevention initiatives.

Animal science freshman Ashley Sampedro said she attended because of her interest in food and sustainability. She said talking to so many people about these topics gave her confidence in the future of local food.

“I think if everyone starts learning about this, we can really make a change,” she said.