Release the Feast: Part 3

The Santa Monica College quad lit up last Thursday afternoon with a colorful array of organic foods and dynamic, jazz-funk brass music in the Third Annual "Feast." This free, organic and locally grown mass-meal--organized by the SMC Associated Students in collaboration with the Eco-Action Club-- attracted hundreds of students who relaxed at the many white tables to socialize and consume fresh fruit, pumpkin cake, veggie wraps, tamales and fresh-squeezed orange juice. "All of the food that we had at the event were local vendors," said Megan Wall, President of the Eco-Action Club and a primary organizer of the Feast.

According to Wall, Farmers' Market vendors and local restaurant businesses donated catered food for the students' enjoyment, adding that "no one delivers their produce from more than 350 miles away." The event itself was an educational statement encouraging the city to support the "local economy" by buying produce from local vendors, a choice that Wall calls "healthier and less expensive," with definite global benefits. Genevieve Bertone, executive director of the non-profit organization "Sustainable Works," added in her speech before the hundred-plus munching students that "being [environmentally friendly] is not about sacrifice, it's about making smart choices." And the Feast definitely proved that consumers could have a loving, juicy, tasty relationship with nature even while eating like kings.

"[This food] is awesome," said SMC student Erik Johnson "I've tasted a little of everything...I would like seeing this in the cafeteria." History Professor Lesley Kawaguchi also added that the event "was excellent. Every year they come up with different food." Even the scholarly and rarely extroverted English Professor Gordon Dossett lent his simple eloquence to describe the funky music by the local group "Critical Brass," which the crowds grooved to throughout the afternoon: "it's loud and good," he said.

But Dana Morgan, Chair of the Garden Advisor Council and SMC English Professor, pointed out that the Feast was not just about personal enjoyment, but also about educating students on the "importance of a safe and clean food source, the need for delicious, fresh food, and for food that is locally grown." Wall describes this effort as a successful one, even reminiscing that students were asking where the "salads were, instead of the pizzas."

And Morgan's council, in response to the SMC Associated Students' proposal, plans to bring this appreciation into a reality at SMC. According to Morgan, the "student-initiated" project to implement "organic, edible plants" in an official SMC Garden by Spring 2009 is an "opportunity for us to build something to enrich-to broaden-our views and to bring inspiration to others." The garden, which will reportedly exist outside the Art Complex, will perhaps contribute partially to the produce in the SMC cafeteria, or to "feeding the homeless." But most importantly, it will symbolize a "campus-wide standard in environmental education and food quality," said Raphael Sisa, Director of Activities of the A.S., "[while promoting] good work ethic--you are directly responsible for the work you put in."

"You learn to slow down, care about nurture things that grow," agreed Wall, adding that the garden isn't the only manifestation of changes in SMC's environmental interaction in the near future. By the year 2020, she explained, the school's new "Real-Food Challenge" will implement local, organic food, like that at the Feast, into at least 20 percent of the cafeteria's food.

Also, in the next few weeks, the recycling systems will reportedly be fully co-mingled on campus. This system was partially exemplified at Thursday's feast, in which both "blue bins" for plastics and "grey bins" for compost, such as organic food scraps and the compost plates, were provided. In fact, Wall, who plans to make a career for herself in teaching and environmental education, displayed her dedication to recycling when, after a student accidentally dropped salad into the "plastics" trash-can, she unhesitatingly dug the food out and dumped it into the correct bin by hand.

On the increased universal respect for nature that she plans to see in the future, Wall said that "in order to have environmental change, we need to start with the people. The [recent presidential election] is a good example: if we can change our government we can do it with the environment."