“Locavorism” at Duke


In honor of National Food Day and the beginning of the Green Devil Smackdown Competition, here's a blog written in April 2012 by Julianne Chiraz ('13), who was inspired by her experiences in a Duke Food Studies course in the spring of 2012.

This school year, my perspective of food and eating in general has changed dramatically.  It all started over the summer, when I had the privilege to read the first-year summer reading book, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer.  At first, I was skeptical of the intentions of this selected summer reading (is Duke trying to convert everyone to veganism to save money and purchase less meat?!).  However, I soon realized that the current food crisis extends far beyond the spectrum of eating meat vs. not eating meat; it’s the harmful food production practices that have a substantial impact on the economy, the environment, and our own health.  It’s not just the problem of vegetarians/vegans/health-nuts/etc.  It’s EVERYONE’S problem because EVERYONE eats.
Having read Foer’s work, I was inspired to enroll in Duke’s Inaugural University Course, entitled “Food Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Why, What, and How We Eat.”  The goal of this course was to bring students and faculty together from multiple academic backgrounds to provide a multifaceted approach to food.  The course consisted of a lecture from a new speaker every week, a response providing an alternative view, and a discussion over dinner with a smaller discussion group.  The input of the lecturers as well as my fellow classmates provided me with opportunities and insight into food culture that I would never be able to get from reading a book or watching a documentary.

A recurring theme from Eating Animals, the University Course, and world news in general is the idea of “locavorism”.  Eating “local” is a nutrition trend that’s sweeping the nation, and Duke and Durham are no exceptions.  Local food movements are often categorized by farm-fresh products, and the food’s quality is often measured by the distance the food travels to reach one’s plate.  How fitting then, that Duke has its own 1-acre farm, located approximately 6 miles away from campus! 

The Duke Campus Farm is fair Thumbnail ly new, having had its first harvest in April 2011.  However, I find that its visibility is already prevalent on campus, whether it’s through social media, cooking classes, or even just their clearly labeled produce in Duke’s eateries.  While the farm is open to anyone for Community Workdays on Sundays and Thursdays, I managed to find the opportunity to attend a Workday through a group that was organized in my Food Studies discussion group.  When we arrived, we were put straight to work harvesting products we see in the Great Hall and Marketplace everyday – I was put to the task of harvesting spinach, as seen in the pictures here!  It was such an awe-inspiring task, as I’ve never in my entire life felt that connected to the food I eat; I attend the Great Hall 3+ times/week, and usually find myself at the salad bar, so I was so excited to have the chance to eat food that I actually picked out of the ground with my bare hands…you can’t get more local than that!
Yes, my challenge to you is to eventually take action in promoting local eating, but first, simply think about to what you eat and how it may affect your health, your life, and the future of the world we live in.  We are fortunate enough to live in an area that is lush with farm-fresh products, but we can’t forget that North Carolina is also a home to some of the largest hog producing counties in the nation.  Duke is the place to make changes in your own eating practices and influence those of the people around you!