Fourth annual Food Symposium topic is a ‘natural fit’

Morgan Smith

What can you do with seven thousand pounds of worms, hundreds of yards of compost and a passion for farming? For Will Allen, the answer is a lot.

Wilmington College’s Fourth Annual Food Symposium was presented last Wednesday, featuring a pie contest and tasting and a panel discussing the growth, distribution and consumption of food. The night culminated with the keynote address by Will Allen of Growing Power, Inc.

Allen discussed the numerous projects he supervises along with the help of volunteers and community members. He has built hoop houses in dozens of different states, as well as foreign countries. These houses provide enough room to grow hundreds of crops as well as raise fish.

“It’s really about social justice, environmental justice—not just about growing food,” said Allen.

Allen typically sets up his hoop houses in areas designated as food deserts, or places where the only distributers of food products are convenience stores or fast food restaurants. Growing Power not only provides food to distribute to the local school systems and sell in their community food center, it is also educating youth on important skills like using tools, gardening and preparing nutritional food.

“Our food system is in some trouble,” said Allen.

This trouble was addressed in the panel discussion held earlier that afternoon with guests Dr. Jeff Sharp, Professor of Rural Sociology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University; Ron Williams, local food coordinator at the Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton, Washington Store; Jon Branstrator, local food producer and distributor from Clarksville; and Kurt Reiber, CEO and president of Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati. This session was titled “Gaps in the Food Chain: from Production to Distribution to Consumption” and was moderated by Corey Cockerill, assistant professor of communications.

“Why isn’t all food local?” Sharp questioned. He believes it is a consequence of specialization. Instead of every individual growing what they need, they must rely on varieties of food from many different sources. Sharp emphasized the need to put local food back in the chain.

Much of the conversation during the panel discussion centered around what Wilmington College could do to improve its relationship with food. The panel encouraged students and faculty to push for local food used in the dining service, Sodexo, as well as involve the agriculture program or seniors from other major to assist in such projects as marketing and advertising the Wilmington Farmers’ Market.

Reiber foreshadowed Allen as he spoke of the importance of changing our food system. “It’s a question of fairness. It’s a question of social justice. It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

Participation by both college and community was evident throughout the symposium, beginning with the Pie Contest. Fifty-nine pies were submitted within the categories of “community,” “campus group,” and “campus individual.” After the judging was completed, they were offered for tasting by campus and community members.

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Dr. Caroline Stanley submitted a family recipe that she called “Extra Crumbly Apple Crumble.” Dr. Stanley said, “The extra crumble is really extra butter.”

Winners of the pie contest—as judged by Jim Reynolds, Mayor Randy Riley, Chef Molly Dullea, Joyce Dosier, Ed Agran, Chip Murdock, and Bryce Bozman—were as follows:

The grand prize ($100) award went to: a Bourbon, Maple, Pecan with Bacon Pie submitted by Leah Phillips and Dominique Parks

  • In the category “Community Member” for best visual appeal ($50): a Red Cherry with Lattice Pie by Jama Hayes
  • In the category “Community Member” for best taste appeal ($50): a Peach, Red Raspberry, and Blackberry Pie with Cutout Top by Karen Shelton
  • In the category “Campus Member Individual” for best visual appeal ($50): a Salted Caramel Apple Pie by Tara Lydy
  • In the category “Campus Member Individual” for best taste appeal ($50): an Old Farm Sugar Cream Pie by Josh Keith
  • In the category “Campus Student Group” for best visual appeal ($50): a Key Lime Pie by Sarah Boehle
  • In the category “Campus Student Group” for best taste appeal ($50): a Sugar Cream Pie by “Ag Girls” Christina Robison, Rachel Jeffers, Kayla Finton, and Stephanie Graham

The Food Symposium was made possible by the committee consisting of Monte Anderson, Michael Snarr, Charlotte Fairlie, Cathy Pitzer, Corey Cockerill andTony Staubach.  

Cockerill said, “Clearly food and food development are topics that resonate well with our public. And, as the host to Ohio’s only private 4-year agriculture program, Wilmington College will continue to focus attention on the relationships between food and community through future symposia. It’s just a natural fit for us.” 

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