Food Tank offers food for thought

Photo/Mike Lovett
What role can our food choices make in fighting climate change?
Brandeis students tackled this question in a series of panel discussions called the Brandeis Food Tank: The Think Tank on Food and Sustainability, organized by Sustainable Brandeis with support from Joel Buchwald-Moskowitz ’76 and his wife, Janet.
The series featured four events in March exploring food production, waste, diets and education. “Food has to be part of the sustainability conversation we have on campus,” said Sustainable Brandeis manager Mary Fischer. “Climate change is a social justice issue. Food ties back into both — you can’t unlink them.”
At each panel discussion, attendees including students, faculty, staff and Sodexo general manager Andy Allen, ate a specially prepared menu. Sodexo executive chef David LaFleur planned vegetarian meals using locally-sourced and organic ingredients from as near as Newton and as far as Vermont.
“I think the menu showcased the variety of local, organic ingredients available even in March,” Fischer said. “It was great for attendees to meet our chef — it’s not often that people speak with chefs — to see not only how talented he is, but also to ask questions about where the food came from and how it was prepared.”
The ensuing Food Tank discussions focused on food waste, insecurity, production, education, diets and environmental impacts. Surprising revelations for attendees included the fact that there are no federal regulations behind labeling food as “natural,” whereas the organic label is the only one that can truly provide what “natural” often promises.
Additionally, attendees were surprised to hear that reducing meat intake is the number one thing they can do to help fight climate change through their food choices.
“We are very concerned about food sustainability and over the past 10 years have gotten very interested in growing our own food,” Moskowitz told students at the final panel last week.
American environmental studies professor Brian Donahue, a farming expert, gave a brief overview of his study “A New England Food Vision,” which claims that the region could grow half its food by 2060.
“These were important discussions to have, because it focused on the upstream supply chain, about where and how Brandeis gets its food,” Fischer said. “Changing our eating habits really can have a significant impact on climate change & the environment, even though we can’t necessarily see it.”

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