Tokens of Conviviality

Shopping is a community experience at Farmers on the Square, a weekly, seasonal market located just blocks from campus, where foodies can snap up goodies from the College Farm and other local vendors. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Shopping is a community experience at Farmers on the Square, a weekly, seasonal market located just blocks from campus, where foodies can snap up goodies from the College Farm and other local vendors. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

LOCALTUNITY makes healthy choices easy, affordable, fun

By MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson 

Healthy eating got even more salubrious May 7 when Dickinson rolled out an incentive program that brings students, faculty and staff together to discover, buy and enjoy local, organic food.

Spearheaded by the Center for Sustainability Education (CSE) and co-sponsored by Human Resource Services, the Wellness Center and the Division of Student Development, the LOCALTUNITY program rewards campus-community members who visit the Farmers on the Square (FOTS) seasonal farmers market with at least two fellow students, faculty or staff members. Each group member may request a $5 token to be used as cash at any FOTS stand. If they also prepare and share a meal with their group members, they may each request an additional $5 token for future purchases.

Individuals may request up to two group-shopping tokens and two shared-meal tokens during the summer season, totaling a potential savings of $20 of delicious, healthy food; they may apply for up to four more tokens when the program reboots in the fall. Along the way, shoppers who eat locally not only help protect the environment—since fewer greenhouse gases are emitted to bring local food from farm to table—but also take steps toward better personal health.

"That's what makes this program exciting for us at the Wellness Center—it brings together all of the different areas of wellness we work with: good nutrition, camaraderie and physical activity, since the market is so close to campus that you can walk or bicycle there," says Wellness Center Executive Director Alecia Sundsmo. "So when we learned about it, we were eager to get on board."

farmers on the square

Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

LOCALTUNITY is the latest example of the college's commitment to supporting community-building efforts in downtown Carlisle, including FOTS, where shoppers can buy organic produce and entrees, fresh flowers, artisan cheeses and condiments, baked goods and other products from the College Farm and other local vendors. Held Wednesdays during the growing season (on the corner of High and Hanover streets, 3-7 p.m.), the market is a place where friends meet up just blocks from campus to enjoy good food and, occasionally, live music, while meeting the neighbors who grow their food.

That social element is critical to LOCALTUNITY's effectiveness, since healthy habits are easier to maintain with group support. Joyce Bylander, vice president for student development, saw that dynamic in action when she stopped by the market on the first day of the program. “Even though it was at the end of the semester, the market was a beehive of activity, with lots of students, faculty and staff shopping together and planning,” she reports.

“The effects of these interactions are far-reaching, because they build stronger relationships not just among students, among staff members and faculty members, and among students and professors and staff, but also between the college and community,” adds Lindsey Lyons, assistant director of CSE. “And whenever we buy local, we also strengthen the local economy.”

This exponential community building, sometimes referred to as “social sustainability,” is what distinguishes LOCALTUNITY as more than a sustainable-energy initiative, or a healthy-eating program, says Steve Riccio, associate vice president of human-resource services, and it is the heart of the college’s ongoing wellness programming. “What these programs say is that we care about our students and employees, and we want them to thrive in all aspects of their lives,” he says, adding that plans are in the works for more intra-departmental programs that further that aim.

Meanwhile, Lyons says, LOCALTUNITY’s buzz continues to grow, even in the relatively quiet summer months. “It’s really taking off," she says, "and what we hope is that this program will become a model for other local businesses who want to promote community, sustainability and good health.”

farmers on the square

Photo by Carl Socolow 77.

To participate, sign up at the Holland Union Building's information desk with at least two fellow Dickinsonians. Each group member will receive a certificate that they may exchange for a $5 token at Farmers on the Square. Individuals may request up to two tokens per cycle (this cycle ends Aug. 15, or until the supply of tokens is depleted). Those who commit to cooking a meal with group members and send a photo of the meal in progress to (or #dsonlocaltunity) may qualify for an additional $5 token.

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Published June 13, 2014