Our common reading for all new first year students was The Good Food Revolution and our featured speaker during Welcome Week was Will Allen one of the book’s co-authors. Both the book and the presentation were well received and I totally agree that this is an important message for all college students.
Will Allen is an imposing figure. He still looks like the basketball player he was in college and professionally and everything he says is stated with passion and belief. When he first started speaking to students, he announced that his PowerPoint presentation was 1054 slides long. Everyone laughed but 1054 slides later we were all more passionate and more convinced.
In the beginning of his talk, Will Allen talked about the connection between good health and good food. Both are clearly inextricably interwoven and good food is a facilitator of good health. Allen also talked about the importance of fertile soil, that is absent of dangerous chemicals and he talked about the value and importance of urban farming. His comments registered well with the students and registered equally well with me and my colleagues also sitting in the audience.
Growing up, my diet was rich in fruits and vegetables. We didn’t have local farmers’ markets but we did have plenty of stores that specialized just in fresh fruits and vegetables. My diet was also rich (likely over-rich) in meats (especially beef) since my father was a butcher and my parents owned a mom and pop butcher shop just around the corner from where we lived. The best way to illustrate the family philosophy on meat is that my father felt Thanksgiving, given its importance, should be celebrated with a roast beef rather than with a roast turkey. And yes, in many of my early years, the turkey lost out to the beef. Ultimately we yelled foul (fowl) and my father agreed to change the menu to the more traditional offering. My diet growing up didn’t include soda, probably included too little sea food, and eating out was not part of the offerings except on a few major holidays a year. Fast foods were also not prevalent when I was growing up.
My kids love most fast foods and would eat chicken nuggets for at least two meals a day if they had the opportunity. I am appreciative that in our school district there is a vigilant parents committee that reviews menus and promotes healthy eating and we try to reinforce these values in what we serve at home. And yet given how busy everyone is we do eat out, and eat overly processed foods more than we should. And I seem to have passed my sweet tooth to my kids.
What is most important about Will Allen’s message is the emphasis on food education and food growing/preparation. We should all buy into The Good Food Revolution.