Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carolina Tour: Wofford College

The last two days of P'Nok's time in the Carolinas focused on Spartanburg, and particularly Wofford College, where the student "green" coalition--the Wofford College Go Green Initiative (or WOCOGG)--has been conducting its own version of the nation-wide Real Food Challenge campaign. To promote awareness and action on developing Real Food purchasing policies, WOCOGG leaders organized several events on Wofford's campus aimed at encouraging the administration and Aramark Food systems to begin formal talks about Real Food.

Monday, October 27th

Monday was a big day on Wofford College's campus. P'Nok began the day by presenting to the classes of Prof. Cynthia Fowler, who helped write a grant for P'Nok's tour of the US. (We're still waiting to hear about the grant!)

P'Nok then met with Dr. Phil Racine, a professor of Southern history, who helped P'Nok (and Amanda!) get a clearer understanding of the parallels between the Isaan and the American South, particularly along the lines of agriculture and industrialization. We continued that lesson when we visited former textile communities in the early evening, where Spartanburg's lowest wage earners live in high concentrations (and without much organization).

Monday evening's presentation in Leonard Auditorium welcomed over 50 students, faculty and community members to hear P'Nok talk about developing fair food systems. P'Nok was introduced formally by the college president, Dr. Benjamin B. Dunlap, who spent time as a Fulbright Scholar in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. More importantly, Dr. Dunlap is an advocate for Fair Trade and was excited to have P'Nok be a part of educating the Wofford community about fair food systems. Questions from the audience ranged from the price of Fair Trade products to the implications of the development of Fair Trade purchasing policies on campuses.

Glendale citizens turned out to support their guest.

The student organizers of P'Nok's time on Wofford's campus were (from left) WOCOGG sophomores Amy Chalmers and Sarah Hager.

After the speaking event, we retired to Glendale and discussed organizing and "sampled" local beers.

Tuesday, October 28th

Tuesday morning's time was split between the Spartanburg Day School and Wofford College's final forum. Allyn Steele's group of high school seniors, who are currently studying Food issues, had a 45 minute "mocktail party" and exchange with P'Nok about community and Food.

P'Nok's final activity in Spartanburg was at Wofford's roundtable discussion on developing a Fair Trade food purchasing policy for the campus. Over ten were In attendanc, including WOCOGG leaders, administrators, a representative from Aramark, and, of course, P'Nok and her translator, Amanda. The discussion closed with several inconclusive but promising bits--that Aramark would be willing to establish a "local food" and/or "fair trade" section of the dining hall, and that Aramark wanted to explore the possibility of hiring a student to become the Local/Regional/Fair Trade food intern. WOCOGG leaders and P'Nok thought this was a good start, although all realized that a policy is the end goal.

Future action on local/regional/fair trade food on Wofford's campus will be on November 10th, when Aramark and WOCOGG will host a forum to educate the campus community on the food purchasing system currently in place. The event will also be an opportunity to continue pushing for more formal talks regarding a fairer food purchasing program.

Additionally, P'Nok's time on campus landed some local press! Some of the facts are a little off, but the basic idea is there.

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