Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Student-led program to host sustainable food event at Matthaei

As autumn rolls in, the U-M Sustainable Food Program will be promoting sustainability by dishing out locally grown foods at Harvest Festival.


The festival is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. It will feature dishes of locally grown food, local musicians and various games and activities to promote awareness about local food options and the university's sustainability initiatives.

The U-M Sustainable Food Program is requesting attendees make a suggested donation of $12 for general admission and $10 for student entry to support sustainability education and outreach across campus. Lindsey MacDonald, the project manager of Sustainable Food Program, said Central Student Government also is supporting the event by donating $3,000 to cover catering and other costs.

The food at Harvest Festival was grown on a two-acre parcel at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, MacDonald said. Along with the four graduate students who started the Sustainable Food Program, student volunteers from all across campus work together to tend the garden and promote education, hands-on learning and community building.

"Food and growing food is an avenue to bring people together and share ideas that are sustainable," MacDonald said. "There's tons of student interest on this topic now. There were people having the same conversations all over campus but weren't aware of each other (before this program began)."

One year after the announcement of the university's 2025 Campus Sustainability goals of climate action, waste prevention, healthy environments and community awareness, the Sustainable Food Program aims to help the university meet its goals by providing sustainable food to the campus community.

MacDonald said the program has received support from various departments within the university, like the Division of Student Affairs, the DSA Student Advisory Board and University Catering.

"We all have our own projects, but we have a similar mission," she explained.

MacDonald added that the farm and the event are at Matthaei Botanical Gardens because, despite its distance from Central Campus, the knowledge, equipment and expertise there is invaluable. She added that the location does not fit perfectly with the program's goals, but they hope to implement satellite gardens across campus and get locally grown food into the University Unions and dining halls to bring their message closer to the students.

This program was started as a master's student project in January and will begin receiving money from the Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund once the group secures a separate form of funding for a full-time project manager.

The Sustainable Food Program also offers sustainable methods of transportation to and from Harvest Festival, including a free bus from Central Campus and a group bike ride, which will meet at the Ginsberg Center at 3:30 p.m.