Now that we’re in the third week of our “Rethinking the Food System” project, the focus of our work is coming into view. We’re realizing that our biggest obstacle will be to encourage schools to change, but we hope to at least rock the boat with our sample wellness policy. Luckily, we had great meetings this week that gave us more than enough inspiration going forward.
Our meeting on Monday with Layne Klein of Klein Farms in Easton, PA gave us insight from a farmer. Until this meeting, we had not gathered any information from farmers. Layne not only gave us a glimpse of what farm life is like, but he told us why many farmers choose not to be certified organic, but still use organic practices. Similarly, our meeting with Josh Parr, the manager of LAFarm, on Wednesday provided us with more information on farming and organics. Both Layne and Josh described how despite not being ceritifed organic, each of their farms strive to upohold organic standards such as GMO-free feed and no-till soil. This also relates to our meeting last week with Madeline Squarcia of Buy Fresh Buy Local, who insinuated that local food is sometimes more important than certified organic food. Both Layne and Josh informed us that an organic certification is expensive, labor intensive, way different than traditional farming, and requires extensive record-keeping, which may be overwhelming and expensive for most farms to handle.
Dr. Hollie Gibbons, who teaches public health at Cedar Crest College, visited us via Zoom on Wednesday as well. Her knowledge resides mostly in the correlation between food and health, which is not directly related to our project, yet still helped in a multitude of ways. She connected us with another Cedar Crest faculty member who teaches classes on environmental health and offered an important perspective on American healthcare, which relates to the sample wellness policy we are creating. She stated how there is a lack of prevention when it comes to disease; food can easily prevent and heal many ailments, which most Americans do not realize. Generally, Americans wait until there is a problem, then go to the doctor to get that problem fixed. Why not prevent the issue before it even happens? Food can help this!
Dr. Gibbons’s words also connect with our meeting on Thursday with Amanda Pietrobono, who works with the Kellyn Foundation. The Kellyn Foundation does a bunch of excellent work, but Amanda highlighted their education programs at local schools. Amanda wants students to understand whole food and why it’s so important for their health and future. Kellyn also has a mobile market, which I find fascinating and am looking into participating in myself! To order, a customer adds what they want from a menu that is updated weekly. The customer then selects which date and location they intend to pick their food up at. The food is local (they list where each item is from if the item is not directly from Kellyn) and very reasonably priced. This is an essential option for people with disabilities who cannot go to a regular grocery store, or people who want to shop local, but do not know where to start.
Last, but certainly not least, we met with Miranda Wilcha of Greater Easton Development Partnership. Miranda is passionate about themes of food sovereignty, food justice, and food charity, and carries out these passions through GEDP. Miranda manages Easton Garden Works, and they are always looking for volunteers! If you are interested in gardening, weekly volunteer nights are on Thursdays from 5-7 p.m. at Lower Hackett Garden.
GEDP and Josh Parr each work with ProJeCt of Easton’s food pantry. I love seeing connections between the people and organizations we have been meeting with. It shows a sense of community and showcases all of the amazing advice we’ve been receiving; it’s important to know that the people we are meeting with are walking the talk. Thank you to Klein Farms, Dr. Gibbons, LAFarm, Kellyn Foundation, and Greater Easton Development Partnership for your wonderful guidance!
As our meetings slow in the next few weeks, we’ll be crafting resources to publish and will hopefully present our project at the end of the summer. Keep following along for more updates!