Monday, April 11, 2011

Sustainability on Campus, Part 2

KaylaAt Northeastern University, one of the last events held by the Husky Energy Action Team (HEAT) was a live stream of the TEDx talk in Manhattan, “Changing The Way We Eat." This event was co-sponsored by one of Northeastern’s newest student groups, Slow Food NU. In a packed classroom filled with eager students wanting to hear from leaders in the sustainable food and agriculture movement, we gazed at a projector screen, engaged and motivated.

The last speaker we watched from Tedx Manhattan was Josh Viertel, the President of Slow Food USA. His speech, my personal favorite of the day, motivated me to learn more about the non-profit Slow Food. He also motivated me to simply look at the students surrounding me, many involved with a Slow Food chapter at my very own school. I decided to sit down with the Executive Director, Nicole Zub, and learn more about how Slow Food NU began and their plans for the future.

Slow Food NU was started this spring semester by four students with a passion for sustainable food. Nicole, a senior at Northeastern, helped start the club and is now President of the board. Under the Slow Food USA National Network, Slow Food NU is an on-campus chapter. Many neighboring schools in Boston have chapters, including Boston University and Tufts University, so it was time for Northeastern to establish their own.

Nicole talked about the difficulties of starting a student group in the spring semester because the fall is when all the incoming freshmen arrive and there are a lot of introductory activities. “There are less places to market in the spring,” explains Nicole. Fortunately, with the help of other groups like HEAT and Progressive Student Alliance (PSA), Slow Food NU has already created a strong following. With five members on the e-board, an estimated 50-person e-mail list and 20-30 attendees a week, Slow Food NU has already accomplished so much on campus in just a few months.

During restaurant week members of the club made a reservation for 12 and ate at a great Barcelona-style tapas bar in the south end of Boston. They spent three hours around the table enjoying the food and each other’s company. Nicole told me about one member in particular, an international student from Spain, who couldn’t hold in her gratitude and excitement for the meal. Her experience reminded her of home, when she could sit around the dinner table with her family and cherish the company and food—a tradition that has been lost with the growth of “fast” food in America.

Slow Food NU has also been in touch with Charlie, the man who will be Boston’s truck farmer. “Truck Farm” is a documentary film and a movement aiming to get mobile farms in the beds of pickup trucks in cities across the United States. Slow Food NU hopes to get more involved with the farm and have Charlie stop at Northeastern University with his truck so students can buy produce and volunteer at his other stops throughout the city.

Just a couple weeks ago, Slow Food NU and HEAT teamed up again for a screening of the documentary, “Vanishing of the Bees.” Attendees of the event were mostly members of the club so afterward we had a deep discussion about ways to get our messages out to the broader student body.

This summer, Slow Food NU hopes to make a free Slow Food cookbook, organized by season and available to any interested students. They are also looking into a chocolate tour that I personally must make sure I am available to attend. Next September when fall semester begins, Slow Food NU along with HEAT and PSA are looking into a Food Justice Week on campus filled with many events. This week will feature a big barbecue titled “Corn on the Quad,” where educational displays and activities will show all of the products and foods that corn is in and what that means for our economy and our health.

Talking to Nicole about Slow Food NU was inspiring. Although she is a senior, Nicole still wanted to make an impact on a campus she would soon be leaving. Her hope for the future of the club is undeniable and she was deservingly named one of Northeastern’s top 100 most influential seniors. The ambition to help start this club, knowing she would only be involved for the first few months tells me that it is never too late to make a difference. If you are passionate about starting a movement, whether small or large, time should not matter. Her presence on campus will be missed but the club she is leaving behind will certainly flourish and impact campus in a very positive way.

For more information about Northeastern’s own Slow Food chapter visit their facebook page, follow them on twitter or stay tuned to their blog!

What are you doing on your school campus? Let us know in the comments section!

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