Dr. Robert Valgenti, Associate Professor of Philosophy and director of the EAT Research Group, has been invited to take part in the Menus of Change Research Collaborative (MCRC), a working group of scholars and food experts whose goal is to engage universities in the advancement of healthier, more sustainable life-long food choices among students. The MCRC is an outgrowth of the Menus of Change (www.menusofchange.org) initiative launched in 2012 by the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dr. Valgenti’s invitation to the Research Collaborative is recognition for the E.A.T. (Engage, Analyze, Transform) Research Group he founded in 2013. This undergraduate research group has two goals: to improve the dining experience for students, and to dissolve the boundaries between the dining and academic spaces on campus. Specifically, E.A.T. uses data-driven research to promote and assess the goals of ethical reasoning, intercultural competence, healthful living, and environmental sustainability. E.A.T. is comprised of a group of undergraduate student researchers, a faculty advisor, and the director of Metz Culinary Management.
The cooperation between EAT and Metz Culinary Management is in many ways the sort of academic/professional collaboration the MCRC wants to inspire and institute across the country and its college campuses. In particular, the research project conducted by Ashley Smith ’15 (Experience More, Waste Less) was cited by the MCRC as an example of a successful sustainability initiative that transformed students’ eating behaviors and practices.
On October 9, 2014, the 15 students enrolled in the First Year Seminar: Food and Philosophy took a short trip over to the dining hall to learn about Metz’s dedication to fresh food prepared daily on-site. About 90% of Metz’s food is made from scratch in the kitchen by its dedicated staff. Pizza is a great example of this commitment to fresh food. Metz staff members make pizza dough from scratch twice daily to meet the high demand for pizza pies and other specialties that students crave. The pizzas are baked fresh in the pizza oven located in the food presentation area, staffed by one of the several hard-working pizzaioli/e.
Students were taught the process, fashioned dough balls from out of the nearly 70lb ball of dough mixed in the industrial mixer, and even learned how to form and toss the dough. Of course, they also baked and enjoyed the fruits of the study!
This visit to the dining hall is just of of several visits the students make during the semester to learn about food preparation, food sourcing, and the aesthetic enjoyment of a variety of tastes and textures that Metz makes available to its clients.
The EAT Research Group traveled to Burlington, Vermont on June 20 to present at the conference “Collaboration and Innovation Across the Food System” – the joint annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS). Ashley Smith ’15 and Anthony Feudale ’14 had poster presentations accepted to the conference. Ashley’s project “Experience More, Waste Less” tracked food waste in the LVC dining hall, while Tony’s project “Food Attitudes” tracked student attitudes toward the initiatives put in place by Metz to aid in the reduction of food waste.
The EAT group also conducted a roundtable discussion about the year’s initiatives. This panel included Ashley Ferrari ’14 and Ashley Smith ’14, along with Robert Valgenti (EAT faculty director) and Bill Allman (General Manager for Metz Culianary Management).
Corey Kuchinsky and Zach Kirby, two freshmen from the FYS: Food and Philosophy course,developed a transformative final project for the college dining hall.
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On Friday, November 15th members of the E.A.T. team took a day visit to New York University and it was a full day:
We departed from LVC around 8 am and arrived in New York around 11 am. After a quick coffee pick-me-up, we attended a session of NYU’s “Feast/Famine Colloquium” in which culinary students provided lunch while Dr. Simone Cinotto, visiting scholar in food studies – http://www.unisg.it/en/docenti/ricercatore-storia-contemporanea/ - presented work from his book The Italian American Table. The lecture concluded with a participatory discussion by those in attendance and we were then given a mini-tour of the learning kitchen.
Next, Dr. Jenny Berg -http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/nutrition/faculty_bios/view/Jennifer_Berg gave us a tour of NYU’s Urban Farm. Recently created in June of this year, Jenny gave us the lowdown on how the urban farm came to be, obstacles to its establishment, and plans for its future.
We then had the privilege to sit in on a graduate-level class taught by Dr. Krishnendu Ray – http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Krishnendu_Ray entitled Contemporary Issues in Food Studies. The lecture and ensuing discussion centered around global malnutrition and its implications.
Our day ended with dinner at Numero 28 Pizzeria and gelato from A.B. Biagi.
Many thanks to the NYU Food Studies faculty and graduate students for their hospitality and continued support of our project!
Metz Culinary and the E.A.T. members teamed up with LVC’s Office of Spiritual Life today for the Voices of Israel/Palestine event featuring our visiting Woodrow Wilson fellow Bobbie Gottschalk. The Voices event featured students who presented narratives of Israelis and Palestinians who work to cross seemingly insurmountable ideological and political boundaries. This theme of diplomacy transitions quite well into the E.A.T. objective (and part of the mission of LVC) of fostering an understanding of diversity. “Gastrodiplomacy” as coined by Paul Rockower is a diplomatic tool that works to reach the hearts and minds of others by way of their stomachs. Like music as a form of cultural diplomacy, gastrodiplomacy reaches audiences on a more visceral and emotional level while articulating a feel for a country’s culture through its cuisine. This increased likelihood of relating to others may lead to economic and/or political gains.
In keeping with the cultural theme and in an effort to further expose the LVC community to new culinary delights, typical Middle Eastern menu items were offered to all those in attendance. (see photos) These items included:
Stuffed Grape Leaves, Falafel with Cucumber Sauce, Tabbouleh, Hummus, Chicken Kebabs, Pita Bread, Spinach Pastry, Baklava, Mint Tea, and Iced Tea
Interested in learning more about culinary and gastrodiplomacy? Check out the U.S. culinary diplomacy initiative: http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/cpdblog_detail/setting_the_table_for_diplomacy/
Do you wish dining hall food tasted more like meals from home? Well now is the chance for students to submit their favorite recipes from home to:
LVC’s “Tastes from Home” Recipe Contest!
Bring a taste of your home/heritage/study abroad experience to the dining hall. The contest is open to all LVC students and the finalists (chosen by a vote of students who sample the recipes) will have their meal offered as a menu item during the spring 2014 semester.
The goal of the contest is threefold: to empower students by giving them a direct say of what is served in the dining hall; to introduce “tastes from home” that students miss while at school; and to expose students to the comfort foods of other cultures.
Click the following link to participate: LVC’s “Tastes from Home” Recipe Contest
Submissions will be accepted until Friday, November 8th!
Registration is now open for PHL 311-Environmental Ethics. If you are interested in taking the course, or just want to know what the course will cover and how it will be related to the E.A.T. initiative, go to the course page for more information. Enrollment is by instructor permission only, so go there to find the two brief questions you will need to answer, or email Dr. Valgenti (firstname.lastname@example.org) to set up a time to meet and discuss the class.