Eating locally produced foods is the focus of the University of Mississippi’s third annual Food Day celebration, set for Wednesday (Oct. 16).
The event will feature a farmers market, festival, panel discussion and a screening of the film “Fresh.”
“Food Day is a celebration, but it’s also a way to raise awareness,” said Anne McCauley, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability. “At Ole Miss, we’re focusing on the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables as well as the economic benefits of sourcing food locally. We want everyone to realize all of the options in Oxford.”
Food Day at UM is held as part of national Food Day, a celebration of healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food, and is a grassroots campaign for better food policies. The event will kick off at the Student Union plaza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a farmers market and festival, and will feature local foods for purchase, cooking demonstrations and information from groups including the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management and the Food Action Rebels student group. The nutrition and hospitality management department will also host a networking event for local farmers to connect with restaurateurs.
Following the festival, experts will host a discussion called “Impact of a Changing Food System” from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Overby Center. Topics will include educational, nutritional and health impacts of food systems, successful models based around sourcing local foods and food’s effect on the economy.
“A lot of times, local food systems are viewed as a social outlet,” said Jody Holland, UM visiting assistant professor of public policy leadership. “We have to start looking at them as a serious economic engine. In places like North Carolina and South Carolina, thousands of jobs are being created around this, and it’s just not happening here.”
Sunny Young, director of Good Food for Oxford Schools, a program that aims to improve cafeteria menus and students’ knowledge of healthy foods, will speak during the panel about farm-to-school and farm-to-institution – such as prisons and hospitals – programs, as well as their effect at a national and local level.
“We have the highest childhood obesity rates in the country here and we tend to rank around the bottom or the top of all these lists of health problems including Type 2 diabetes,” she said. “There needs to be a huge change in the way we think about food to reverse this and start to create a healthier population in the state.”
Besides Holland and Young, panelists include Harvard law lecturer Emily Broad-Leib, who directs the Food Law and Policy Clinic and serves as associate director for the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation; Kathy Knight, interim chair of the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management; Chip Johnson, mayor of Hernando; and Jonathan Parker, resident district manager of Aramark Inc.
Food Day will end with a screening of “Fresh,” presented by Food Action Rebels, Mississippi First and Students for a Green Campus, at 6 p.m. at the Croft Institute, Room 107. “Fresh” is a documentary that focuses on the reinvention of America’s food system.
National Food Day will take place across the country on Oct. 24. For more information about the University of Mississippi Food Day, visit http://green.olemiss.edu.