Our daily spread: April 11 STEM Café to highlight local food movement

Want to be healthier, contribute to lower pollution and stimulate the local economy? Eating locally grown food can help you do all three! At the next STEM Café, “Our Daily Spread: Local Farms, Community Gardens and Access to Healthy Food,” local experts will discuss the promises and challenges of today’s local food movement.

The free event will be held on Tuesday, April 11, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., in the Novak Room at Fatty’s Pub and Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Hwy. in DeKalb.

Melissa Burlingame, co-manager of NIU’s Communiversity Gardens program, will explore the flaws that make our current food delivery and transportation systems so wasteful. She will examine the political reasons why people in the US are able to get enough calories to become obese but can have difficulty getting enough nutrition to be healthy.

“Buying locally grown food doesn’t instantly solve these problems,” says Burlingame. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother. Buying local decreases your impact on the environment, keeps your money in your community and increases your connection to local farmers, who are more likely to care about your community’s health than a far-away conglomerate.”

Burlingame will emphasize that buying local isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. “A lot of people get discouraged because they think there are only two options: making a total, drastic change, or doing nothing. But there is an in-between. Everyone can do something.”

Dan Kenney, director of the DeKalb County Community Gardens (DCCG), will focus on how locally grown food can help address food insecurity: the state of going without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. “When community members start committing to locally-grown food, it automatically increases that entire community’s access to fresh produce. That’s an important first step toward boosting food security.”

The standard model for addressing hunger is emergency relief in the form of donations, Kenney says. “Local food movements present a different, more self-sustaining option. They draw together people from across a community who care about the environment, health and nutrition, education, and economic development. Together, they take control of what they’re eating and where it’s coming from. In the last two years, the DCCG has donated nearly 10 tons of food to local food pantries, day care centers, schools and senior citizen centers.”

A local husband-and-wife farming team will speak about their experiences growing food for the local community.

All community members involved in local food initiatives or businesses are welcome to attend with fliers and brochures, all of which will be placed on an information table.

Monthly STEM Cafés are one of many programs offered through NIU STEAM Works, part of the university’s Center for P-20 Engagement. Each STEM Café provides an opportunity to learn about the science, technology, engineering and mathematics that are a part of our everyday lives.

All STEM Cafés are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Judith Dymond at jdymond@niu.edu or 779-777-7713.

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