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First-year students discuss the fruits of mindful eating

Students from two First-Year Seminar classes gathered on a sunny, crisp fall evening for an al fresco feast of local foods prepared by Amanda Langlitz, Sodexo general manager.

Under the direction of exercise science professor Sharon Brown and English and film studies professor Colleen Glenn, both classes have been discussing the theme “living deliberately.” After reading several essays on the subject by authors including Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr., Wendell Berry, and Maya Angelou, the students read Michael Pollan’s bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is organized around four deliberately planned meals. The students discussed the introduction to the book, titled “Our National Eating Disorder,” after they enjoyed their meal.

The book addresses the seemingly simple question, “What should we have for dinner?” In recent decades, however, the answer to that question has become quite complicated. Decisions about the foods we choose to eat can have political, psychological, environmental, and moral implications.

To introduce students to the idea of being mindful about what they eat, Brown and Glenn had them participate in collecting ingredients for the meal they shared. Ingredients included apples from Boyd’s Orchard in Woodford County, vegetables from Transylvania’s community garden, butternut squash from Dean Barbara LoMonaco’s garden in Scott County, cornmeal from Weisenberger Mill in Woodford County, and eggs from first-year student Emma Beck’s family farm in Fayette County.

According to Langlitz, the meal contained no industrial food products, only organic ingredients, only whole foods from within a 50-mile radius, and only free-range eggs from Australorp, Speckled Sussex, and Buff Orpington chickens.

Glenn is curious to see how her students react to the book. “It will be interesting to see how students respond to Pollan’s message. Will they be defensive, or will they embrace it? It was an experiment for Pollan; he was launching an investigation. We’re just trying to open our eyes to the way we live and the choices that we make.”

The book discussion ties in to many other activities planned on campus this fall. Under the direction of Eryn Hornberger ’13, students celebrated Farm to Campus Week September 24–29 with numerous activities focused on learning where our food comes from. The theme for the Anti-Apathy film series this term is food and the food industry. And on October 23, Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and one of the nation’s top experts on nutrition, gave the fall 2012 Kenan Lecture.
All of these activities help reinforce the goal of the first-year students’ meal and classroom discussions, according to Brown. “We hope our students will become motivated to live deliberately.”

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