Earlier, I wrote about how much place shapes food interests, and how I yearned for more food-related interest in Stillwater, OK, where I now live. One of the ways I’ve been trying to be the change I wish to see in the world is by organizing a new Food Studies Program here at Oklahoma State University. We’ve just launched our new website foodstudies.okstate.edu/ and we held our inaugural brown bag last week, with great success.
The project initially began with a colleague of mine, Bailey Norwood, an agricultural economist here at OSU, who had the idea of bringing people together from the College of Agriculture, the College of Arts & Sciences, and other colleges on campus, to connect over a shared interest in food. He often felt siloed within the Ag College and an agricultural focus on food that was sometimes devoid of social or cultural engagement. So, he invited me to help him organize a party at Good Little Eater (about which I hope to write a separate post soon). We invited people from across campus, and from across the community. And when all of these people got together, we discovered a pulsing, vibrant energy that felt very exciting and hopeful. From there, we decided to formalize that energy into a Food Studies program. For now, we are holding monthly events, but are brainstorming to see where we can take it from here–a Food Studies minor or certificate? An annual food festival? Working with OSU to source more local meat and other products? So many possibilities.
When I shared an announcement about this initiative on facebook, a friend re-posted it with the caption, “See, Stillwater does care about food!” That’s one of the less tangible things I’m hoping to get out of this–a mental transformation in the way this community thinks about and approaches food. The existence of institutions like this, however small they might be, begins to plant seeds of interest, begins to indicate a community’s values, and begins to reshape awareness of what is and what might be.