Posted on September 9, 2008 by Tia Lalani

Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta will be talking about food as its theme in the 2008-2009 academic year.

By Nhial Tiitmamer

 

Augustana Campus will be talking about food as its theme in the 2008 – 2009 academic year. The official beginning of the theme year will be marked with a local food supper and a theme book panel on September 17th, 2008.

The theme: “Food from Field to Fork,” has been chosen by the Augustana Faculty Annual Theme Committee to engage the campus on issues and conversations about food. Now, If you have been wondering how far your food travels from the field to your mouth, where it grows, how much energy it consumes, how much CO2 it contributes to the world, and how others can’t afford it, then this theme is for you. With the theme book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, you can learn more about how Barbara Kingsolver and her family dedicated a year to eating locally grown food. You can also listen to some of the experts with cutting edge expertise on the issues of food.

 

This year’s theme couldn’t have come at a better time. With the world shifting attention to the current food crisis caused by rising food prices, coupled with Augustana Campus’ place in the vibrant farming communities of rural Alberta, the campus community has, indeed, got a reason to discuss food for this academic year. 
 
Crafted with a disarming wit and articulation, the theme book is by Barbara Kingsolver, co-written with her husband, Steven L. Hopp, Professor of Environmental Studies at Emory and Henry College, and daughter, Camille, who is studying biology at Duke University.
 
In the book, the family talks about boycotting industrially processed food and devoting themselves to eating locally-produced food for a period of one year, and how their family has changed for choosing that path. The family had in mind that the eating culture they had chosen to adopt, even if for only a year, could make a profound difference in energy conservation.
 
“We only knew when we started, that similar choices made by many families at once were already making a difference,” they write in the book. The authors, who are from the US, emphasize that “if every US citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week,” arguing that “small changes in buying habits can make big differences [in] becoming less energy dependent nation.”
 
Published in 2007 and listed by Time Magazine as one of the top ten books of the year, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life has become a masterpiece that addresses issues surrounding food in an unprecedented way. The authors reveal that “the average food item on a US grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations,” stressing that “fuels were consumed for the food’s transport, refrigeration, and processing with obvious environmental consequences.” They write that Americans use huge chunks of fossil fuels, almost all of which they use for their cars, saying that America uses 400 gallons of oil a year per citizen, which is about 17 per cent of the nation’s energy use for agriculture, making it (agriculture) second to vehicles in energy consumption. They argue that farm equipment such as tractors, harvesters, irrigation machines, sprayers, tillers, and balers are fuelled by petroleum, adding that fertilizers like pesticides and herbicides also use fossil energy for operation, as well as during manufacturing.

 

However, they state that food production from seed to harvest takes only one-fifth of the total energy used for food production. So, if you get your food right from your farm to the kitchen, it will consume far less energy. This is because “the lion’s share,” as they argue, “is consumed during the trip from the farm to your plate,” emphasizing that “each food item in a typical US meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles.”
 
With such a groundbreaking revelation in the book of how much energy it requires for your food to travel from the farm through processing, storage, marketing, shipping, kitchen and eventually to your mouth, I bet you will pause for a second and consider why it is a rational idea to consider eating a locally produced food that does not require all these energy consuming steps.
Food, the thing that sustains us, or as in a common adage, the thing that makes us who we are, will be the annual theme of Augustana Campus in the 2008 -2009 academic year. I’m sure you have got a reason to be excited about this thought-provoking topic.

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