By Carly Shields
This year’s Sagan National Colloquium encourages students to bite into the culture of food and how it affects world perspective.
Christopher Fink, OWU professor of health and human kinetics, will be directing fall 2012’s National Colloquium on food. “Bite!” is the name of the lecture series this year, and it not only includes topics of food based off of health and nutrition but also how food relates to a global, economic and environmental perspective.
National Colloquium at Ohio Wesleyan was established in 1984 and was created to look at a variety of diverse topics, debates, ideas and issues from both national and international perspectives.
National Colloquium was originally created so that all students were required to attend each lecture.
Since 1999 OWU has brought many well-known speakers to the university including Bill Nye the “Science Guy” in 2001, Michael Pollan, a pronounced writer for the New Yorker, in 2003 and Brian Green, a theoretical physicist, in 2004.
“I chose the name ‘Bite!’ not only to be catchy but I also would like students to look at the diverse side of food,” Fink said. “As soon as we take a bite of food it changes us and we can also change it. Its both scientific and cultural.”
The 2011 Sagan National Colloquium’s theme, “Africa: Governance, Equity, & Global Citizenship,” was run by Quaye, professor and director of the black world studies program.
It took a deeper look into the roots of African history, global issues, poverty and Africa’s dependence on foreign trade.
“One can not talk about the continent of Africa without some general discussion of food security, which is based off climatic conditions,” Quaye said. “Food can be a source of war, source of cash crops, to some extent and it can be a source of gender relations…But poverty, starvation and draught are also true in this country. Food is an international issue. It is not localized and restricted to geographical regions.”
Fink has had the great pleasure of traveling to Italy and saw the relationship the Italian people had with food and decided he wanted to do more with his profession of nutrition and health. So he immediately started taking Italian classes at Ohio Wesleyan and in spring 2010 taught a travel-learning course to Italy where students would study the relationship of food and culture. Students also studied and compared obesity rates in Italy versus the United States.
“We don’t spend enough time as a collective whole understanding the core roots of food. Food is our interaction with the environment, family, esthetics etc,” Fink said. “Food is not always a health related issue as well and I really wanted to be someone who looks at those issues.”
Fink has also been involved in working with different groups in Columbus who look at the interaction of food from an ecological standpoint. He is bringing in a couple of local Ohio speakers as part of the panel called “Making Local Work in Ohio: Production, Promotion and Entrepreneurship in the Local Food System.” These local business owners and local farmers will discuss their experiences.
The owner and co-founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio, Jeni Britton-Bauer, is an example of one local speaker coming to talk about her experience as a business owner. But Britton-Bauer will also be speaking about how most of her ingredients for her well-known ice creams are local to Ohio and will discuss Fink’s theme, how food changes us and how we change it.
Abram Kaplan, an environmental studies professor at Denison University, will be coming to speak for “Bite!” about how people interact with food from an environmental aspect.
Not only is Kaplan the founder and director of Denison’s environmental science program, but he is also an artist. He has created a 3-D exhibit called, “Fine Grain: Visual Immersion in the American Food System” that will be displayed on campus for “Bite!” An example of Kaplan’s 3-D art is a sixteen-foot silo that is wrapped with photographs of agriculture in the U.S., which will be on display in the Hamilton Williams Campus Center along with other pieces in the library and the science center.
“Kaplan wants people to touch and interact with the art,” Fink said.
One of the key parts to “Bite!” this fall is that there is a greater picture to the lecture series than just academic for OWU students. Fink has created a fundraiser that will sell t-shirts; the money is raised will go to the Early Childhood Center.
Fink’s goal is to put in a learning garden for the children so they learn about math, science and nutrition in a fun, engaging way. The money raised from the t-shirts will go to help put in the garden and to help maintain it during summer and school breaks.
The lectures, food tastings and activities this fall are open and available to not just OWU students, but also to local residents of Delaware and Columbus. Fink describes food as something that can integrate people and connect us without us realizing it.
“Food is a real area of scholarship and academics but it is also fun,” Fink said. “Food makes us happy and I hope the students and local community members enjoy it and it helps broaden their horizons.”