Real Food, Real Change

Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013

Ask William Smith junior Mollie Kenerson ’15 about food and she gets visibly excited. Not just any food: it has to be of the local, good-for-you variety.

Kenerson, an environmental studies major with minors in anthropology and Spanish, spent the summer working with the Finger Lakes Institute to develop a plan to increase locally sourced foods in Geneva and at Hobart and William Smith. Her project was originally inspired by a visit from Environmentalist David Orr in 2012 in which he spoke about local food sourcing at Oberlin College where he is a professor of environmental studies and politics. Her passion for environmental justice and community development, however, has much deeper roots.

“I am really interested in how we interact with the world around us and how communities interact,” explains Kenerson. “I have always been passionate about environmental justice, and food is the perfect intersection of those interests. Everything comes down to food eventually.”

Kenerson’s work has been primarily focused on two separate projects. The first, is working with Dining Services on campus to prepare the Real Food Challenge this fall, a program that leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system. Their primary campaign is the shift of $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food toward local, community-based, fair, ecologically sound and human food sources by 2020. HWS signed on to participate in the campaign in April of 2013.

The Real Food Challenge will require student dedication and commitment, and Kenerson has explored ways to get the student body involved. “The working group for the Real Food Challenge should be at least 50 percent students,” explains Kenerson. “I am hoping to get students excited about participating. I know there are already a lot of students on campus who care about sustainable, local foods.”

In addition to her work focused on HWS, Kenerson has been working on creating an event with a broader community focus. “I didn’t know how much food was produced here or the variety of different types of products when I arrived in the Finger Lakes,” says Kenerson. “My goal is to make sure that all members of community know about the local food that is available. I think that much of the reason for unsustainable consumption is a lack of knowledge and access to alternatives.”

Kenerson has coordinated a local food event that will take place on Saturday, Aug. 31 at the Bicentennial Park in Geneva. This event will feature vendors with a wide array of local products and foods. “The purpose of this event is to get people talking and networking. Ideally, I want to broaden the scope of people who feel like they are part of the local food movement and community in Geneva,” she says.

Kenerson will continue to work for the Finger Lakes Institute on issues related to local food throughout the upcoming academic year. In the spring semester, she will study abroad in Ecuador and Peru, where she hopes to continue to work on issues of community building and environmental justice.


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