Local Food Summit Comes to Campus

Local Food Summit Comes to Campus

(Provided/Pixabay)

The University of Central Oklahoma’s Students for Sustainability is hosting a Local Food Summit to shed light on sustainably sourced food on April 11 in the Nigh University Center Ballrooms.

The summit features a vendor fair, keynote speakers and a ‘Made in Oklahoma’ meal from 5:30-8 p.m.  All aspects of the summit focus on the sustainable food movement, local food sources and how UCO can work with vendors to provide the campus with local food.

“Not only does the topic encompass issues of food insecurity and environmentalism, but also the responsibility of our institution to use its money ethically by sourcing food from Oklahoma farms and local food providers,” said Mary Bixler, president of Students for Sustainability.

‘Sustainably sourced’ food is planted, grown and harvested with the intention to preserve the environment. According to Bixler, this often results in organic farming, no pesticide or chemical use, small scale operations, humane and ethical treatment of animals and sufficient working conditions and wages for farmers.

Vendors at the summit include businesses, nonprofit organizations and farmers currently working with the local food movement in Oklahoma and environmental student groups at UCO.  The student groups will have DIY succulent planting, a photo booth and food trivia.

The Oklahoma Departments of Agritourism and Agriculture, Food and Forestry, along with Edmond and OSU-OKC Farmer’s Markets, Commonwealth Farms, Earth Rebirth and Phocas Farms are some of the — vendors that will be present.

Keynote speakers from 7-8 p.m. will discuss the local food movement in Oklahoma and how universities can use their money and purchasing power ethically and responsibly. Speakers include director of Communication at Urban Agrarian and National Farm to School Network Fellow Chelsey Simpson, Stephen Parr and Travis Flatt of the Upward Harvest Leadership team, Oklahoma Food Cooperative general manager Adam Price, and Real Food Challenge Fellow Bridget Burns.

Attendees who pre-registered will receive a three course farm-to-table dinner with all locally produced ingredients. The vegan soul food menu is sponsored by UCO executive chef Chris Barton and Nicola Perry from Health Koncious Catering.

Bixler said Students for Sustainability has discussed implementing locally sourced food with Chartwells, the Housing and Dining Office and Conference and Events.

“The reality is that Chartwells has very strict processing and packaging criteria, so it’s difficult to source directly from farmers,” Bixler said. “We can partner with distributors that have contracts with local farmers, such as Fresh Point, that can act as the middle man in this process.”

While no commitments have been made yet, Bixler said it would be feasible for Chartwells to work with an organization like Fresh Point to purchase a percentage of UCO’s annual food from local and sustainable farmers.

Students for Sustainability advocates for sustainable initiatives on campus and in the community. Recently, they worked with large events and organizations on campus and the Nigh University Center dining hall to encourage recycling and waste diversion. The organization has also collaborated with public transit and alternative transportation in Edmond, and has partnered with the YMCA community to create a campus community garden that benefits Central Pantry.

Although registration for the dinner is closed, the summit is open to students, faculty, staff and the Edmond community. Students that attend can receive STLR credit in Health and Wellness.

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