Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mason Groups Work Together to Promote Sustainable Food: Multiple Events On The Table

By Nya Jackson

While most students are excited about sharing a  Thanksgiving meal with their family or friends, Mason’s agriART class and the Environmental Action Group (EAG) are more concerned with educating students about how that home cooked meal is sourced. The EAG is co-hosting a Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner this Thursday, November 18th with Mason’s Animal Rights Collective. The dinner will be in the Potomac Heights Kitchen and Dining Area from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The agriART class is hosting Screens and Greens, a film and local food festival, Friday November 19th in the School of Art Building, Room 1007 from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

The EAG will be enjoying an environmentally friendly Thanksgiving dinner free of any animal products. Jason Von Kundra, co-chair of the EAG, “encourages non-vegans to come and taste how delicious vegan food is”. The EAG will be collecting donations for Farm Sanctuary who “works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.” For every $30 donated, Farm Sanctuary is able to rescue and rehabilitate one turkey. While event attendees are encouraged to donate, it is not required.

The EAG’s Facebook event page for the Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner encourages students to “find out why vegan food is better for the environment” and provides a link to the Vegan Outreach website. According to David Brubaker, PhD, at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University, “the way that we breed animals for food is a threat to the planet. It pollutes our environment while consuming huge amounts of water, grain, petroleum, pesticides and drugs. The results are disastrous.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates in Notes from Underground that “a single dairy cow produces about 120 pounds of wet manure per day, which is equivalent to the waste produced by 20–40 people.”

To learn more about the environmental impact of consuming meat visit the Vegan Outreach website; to taste home-cooked vegan food stop by the EAG’s Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner.

The agriArt class at Mason, which explores the connection between art and agriculture, will be showing two movies during their film and local food festival on Friday. The first movie is Food Inc, an Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature examining the American food industry that is largely hidden from consumers. The second film featured is Dirt! which examines the relationship between humans and ‘living dirt’. Shanna Carvell, an agriART student, stated the goal of the event is to, “inform participants of American food culture and world ecology involving food.”  Part of the event is a project for the agriART class where they are providing all local food for a family style pot-luck. While most advocates of local food define local as within a 200 mile radius, the agriARTclass stipulates that ingredients for the dinner must come within a 100 mile radius from campus.

To aid students in finding local ingredients for their dishes the agriART class has “contacted local farms in the area for produce, dairy and meat and are in the process of making orders”. They are also mapping where the ingredients in all of the dishes came from for participants in the film festival to show students that it is possible to eat local and still enjoy some of their favorite foods. The first feature, Food Inc., will begin at 4:00 p.m. The family style dinner will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the First Floor Lobby. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own utensils and plates to cut down on waste. The second feature, Dirt! will begin at 7pm.

The event is being sponsored by the agriART class, the GMU Organic Garden Association, Mason’s Sustainability Office, and SOA Green. For more information please contact Shanna Carvell at