Food For Thought
Student Videos on the Pleasures, Politics and Production of Food
by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
There's an astounding variety of food choices in America, and our selections affect not only our own health, but also the health of our communities and environment. How do we make the wisest choices? According to Jenn Halpin, director of Dickinson's College Farm, knowledge is power. And students who enrolled in her fall 2012 course on food production are well armed for the challenge.
Halpin's course, Pleasure, Politics and the Production of Food, outlined the ways that different food-production sources, means and methods affect personal, community, national and environmental health. She and co-instructor Matt Steiman, associate director of the College Farm, offered students a choice for their final project: They could write a research paper or produce a video about the research area that interested them most.
For environmental-science major and College Farm student-worker Lauren Bruns '13, that decision was a no-brainer. She opted for the video, because it would help her spread the word about a subject she's passionate about.
As the 2012-13 Dining Services sustainability intern, Bruns works with a committee of fellow students to ensure that Dining Services offers food choices that accurately reflect student wants and needs, which can change over time. While the Dining Hall already features produce from the College Farm during the growing season, Bruns is committed to further boosting local-food choices on campus. That begins with bolstering student support for the cause.
In her video Bruns describes the importance of making informed food choices by learning where your food comes from and stresses the need for students to get involved. "One of the biggest things I learned through my internship was that students need to tell Dining Services what they want," says Bruns, who will work as a College Farm apprentice after graduating in May. "If they want more sustainable choices, they need to say so, because Dining Services provides the food that students eat."
Bruns' video is one of seven student-created productions from the class, with topics ranging from farm-equipment tutorials to profiles of local farmers and local-farming operations. She says that even with support and equipment from the Media Center, the video took longer to edit than she'd anticipated, in part because she'd generated four hours of interviews. But she's pleased by the result and galvanized by the responses she's received thus far.
"If you write a paper, a few people might read it, but if you create a video, you can send the link to your friends, and they can send it to their friends," she explains. "You can have more of an impact. You can bring what you learn in the classroom and take it out to the rest of the world."