Food. It’s taken for granted until weather disasters, invasions, wars, supply chain issues or corporate greed place this urgent topic on America’s own dinner table.
SUNY Cortland will continue its annual, year-long academic series of lectures, discussions, film screenings and art exhibitions framed this year on the very timely issue.
Starting on Thursday, Sept. 7, the university’s Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee (CICC), an all-campus committee of faculty and staff appointed by the provost, will partner with local organizations including the Cortland Food Project to explore the many facets of food on the campus and out in the community.
The events are free and open to the public.
“Food is one of the most interdisciplinary themes in our daily lives,” said this year’s CICC chair, Benjamin Wilson, associate professor and chair of the Economics Department.
“From the science of agricultural practices to the economics of food systems, from the cultural values that surround family recipes to the histories behind culinary traditions, food unites communities as well as academic fields,” he said.
Food, he explained, can also act as a window into some of the largest crises of our time. These range from the need to foster sustainable ecosystems and the vulnerability of global food pathways in the face of climate change to widespread hunger and famine, food deserts and inequalities of access to healthy nutrition.
“Building on SUNY Cortland’s commitment to ‘green’ initiatives, we hope that the shared topic of food will not only provide ‘food for thought,’ but also that it will inspire collaborative actions as we work together towards a nourishing and sustainable future,” Wilson said.
Each year, the series features a “common read” aimed at creating a foundation for discussion across campus. The selection for the 2023-2024 academic year will be Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. The author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and a MacArthur Fellow.
“Braiding Sweetgrass resonates strongly with this year’s focus on ‘Food,’ inviting us to explore our relationships with the environment on both personal and systemic levels and to build community through our engagement with Kimmerer’s moving and lyrical storytelling,” said Abigail Droge, a SUNY Cortland assistant professor of British literature and culture and the organizer of an upcoming panel discussion on the book.
Series highlights will also include a "common screening" of films and documentaries relating to a food theme; and two community-focused food security events, a panel presentation and a sandwich seminar, hosted by the university’s Institute for Civic Engagement. Campus community members are encouraged to seek out and view related digital cinematography by Michael Pollan housed at Memorial Library.
Fall 2023 events
Events, which are still being scheduled, are as follows:
THURSDAY, SEPT. 7. A teaching panel presentation on this year’s common read by Robin Wall Kimmerer, “Teaching Braiding Sweetgrass: Classroom Contexts, Lesson Plans, and Learning Objectives,” will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Old Main Colloquium. Panelists who have taught from the book will discuss their experiences and suggestions on engaging ways that educators might use the text in their own courses. The conversation will cover a wide range of disciplines and course levels. Panelists will include Gabriel Colella, Abigail Droge and Dan Radus of the English Department; Jeremy Jimenez, Foundations and Social Advocacy; Joanna LoGerfo ’23, M.A. in English; Hollis Miller, Sociology/Anthropology Department; and Benjamin Wilson, Economics Department.
THURSDAY, OCT. 5. SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement will host a community roundtable, “Addressing Food Insecurity in Cortland County,” from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Park Center Hall of Fame Room. Co-sponsored by the President’s Fund, the roundtable will include Avery McCloud, a Seven Valleys Health Coalition Project coordinator who chairs its Hunger Coalition and helped with the Hunger Coalition’s Story-Telling Project; Carrie Kane, MS, RD, CDN, deputy director for Nutrition Services, Area Agency on Aging; and Mike Discenza, SUNY Cortland’s head golf coach and academic coordinator, and member of the SUNY Cortland Cupboard.
THURSDAY, OCT. 12. A sandwich seminar on the SUNY Cortland Cupboard in the context of community food insecurity will run from noon to 1 p.m. in Old Main Colloquium. Presenters include Avery McLoud, project coordinator with the Seven Valleys Health Coalition; Carol Corbin Costell, deputy chief of staff at Assemblymember Anna Kelles’ Cortland office and a former SCC board member; Mike Discenza, SUNY Cortland's head golf coach and academic coordinator, as well as a member of the SUNY Cortland Cupboard; and Samantha Shaffer, assistant director of SUNY Cortland Student Conduct and an SCC board member.
The Spring 2024 series events will be announced in a future Bulletin.