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Food and Community Series Sparking Discussion on Food Systems

Added on: September 26, 2013

MACHIAS, Maine – This semester, the Psychology and Community Studies program at the University of Maine at Machias is launching its first Food and Community Series. The series, which includes a book club, has been organized in the hopes of bringing students and community members together and getting them to talk about important issues related to food systems.

Meghan Duff, Associate Professor of Psychology
Meghan Duff,
Associate Professor of Psychology

Meghan Duff, associate professor of psychology at UMM, is organizing the series. She started off trying to find a way to connect her Intro to Sociology class to the community, and decided that it would be fun to organize the class around food systems. She chose three books, Pandora's Lunchbox, Omnivore's Dilemma, and American Wasteland, which she said were, "easy to read without breaking the bank," and she is bringing members of the community into the classroom to discuss the readings.

Duff also contacted the publishers of the three books in the hopes of continuing the discussion. The books were donated to thirteen libraries throughout Washington County. Duff personally delivered the books to each of the libraries, and there are book discussions going on across the county, including in Calais and Lubec.

"I met with lots of people that I haven't known–that I haven't worked with before," Duff said.  

Duff chose these three books after previewing several of them. She wanted books that people would enjoy reading, as well as books that weren't significantly overlapping.

"I suspect students will say, 'I can't get this out of my mind,'" Duff said, "but I consider that a success. If they forget it once they leave the classroom, then what's the point?"

In addition to the book clubs, the Food and Community Series is also supporting other initiatives to spark communication about food in our community. The series is cross-promoting initiatives already underway, such as the Washington County Food and Fuel Alliance and the Machias Marketplace. They're also hosting events on campus, including three food panels co-hosted by the Washington County Cooperative Extension and a showing of the documentary on food insecurity called A Place at the Table, co-hosted with Washington County Food and Fuel Alliance.

Duff recognizes that hunger isn't something generally associated with the US, but also notes that there are plenty of people in our community who aren't getting enough to eat. "No one should have this problem; we really shouldn't. And if we're not communicating, we're not making effective changes for people."

Duff hopes that this conversation can be continued going forth, and hopes that this semester will be just the beginning of the Food and Community Series.

- Written by Cait Smith '14

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