By Sara Katherine Johnson
The menu at Penland’s dining hall features sustainable, locally sourced foods today and the chance for students to participate in National Food Day by taking a green pledge.
Center for Science in the Public Interests started Food Day in 2011 as a campaign. The day was developed to educate people about healthy diet choices, food access for the disadvantaged and justice for farmers, according to the nonprofit’s website.
“We wanted to make this year fun and more of an event,” said Ariel Russ, environmental manager for Baylor Facility and Dining Services.
Russ said Penland was pitched as the dining hall to host the event because Chef John Mercer is a proponent of healthy eating. Dining Services is also partnering with Campus Kitchens and the clean water advocacy group Wells Project for the event. One of the ways they tried to make it more fun than previous years is to include a raffle. Food related items from the campus P.O.D. Market at East Village will be part of the raffle.
People who want participate in National Food Day events off-campus can donate food to Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry at 1401 N. 34th St. Robert Granger, executive director of the pantry, said he would like people to donate cereal in addition to macaroni and cheese.
“It’s hard to come up with one thing over the other we need,” Granger said. “We feed 600 to 700 people. I like to try and have kid friendly items available.”
There are about 57,000 people in Waco who live in food deserts, Granger said. Living in a food desert means that people do not have access to fresh or nutritious food. He said many people are too far from even an H-E-B or Wal-Mart to access food.
Granger also cited the 2010 census, which reported 28 percent of the Waco population as living below the poverty line. The census also states that one-third of families have an annual income of less than $25,000.
“There’s lots of issues that go into food insecurity,” Granger said. “It isn’t only one thing.”
Baylor’s Office of Community Engagement and Service is donating 1,000 paper bags. The bags will be handed out around Waco to encourage people to contribute to the food drive.
Around the community, other organizations are participating in the Food Day festivities in their own ways. World Hunger Relief, Inc will have Farm Day on Saturday with an interactive Food Day booth.
“That booth will be specifically focused on healthy eating,” said Matt Hess, executive director of World Hunger Relief. “People will get to make a smoothie with a bicycle operated blender. It’s called a blender bike and it’s from Outdoor Waco.”
Hess said kids can also do taste tests at the booth to have an opportunity to try vegetables they may not have before.
Like Shepherd’s Heart, World Hunger Relief is a member of the Live Well Waco organization. Hess said the organization is interested in health outcomes in Waco, specifically obesity rates and diet related diseases. The organization as a whole works together to encourage nutrition and active lifestyles, Hess said.
Farm Day at the World Hunger Relief farm is a free event. It will include hayrides, a pumpkin patch, farm tours and a meal cooked from fresh food on site. Live entertainment will be provided from 9 a.m. until past 2 p.m.
Egyptian potato salad, lemon berry bars and pork subs are all on Saturday’s menu, according to World Hunger Relief’s Facebook page. Vegetarian and gluten-free options will also be available.