Food in the Public Square
What’s your story? We’re willing to buy you lunch to find out.
Today, I need your help with an important opportunity dealing with food and food justice in the Lehigh Valley. It won’t cost a penny. In fact, it will be pleasant, we hope deeply enriching, and we’ll even provide you with lunch. You can reserve your spot at the table here. We’ll have fun.
We need fun.
We know that things are not fair for everyone in the Lehigh Valley, especially when we talk about food. Food insecurity is disturbingly common with over 70,000 people each month relying on the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast PA to feed themselves. In their service area, one in nine people and one in six children struggles with hunger. That’s certainly a conversation we need to have.
At the same time, in our region we see people opening food-truck businesses, some selling delicious ethnic foods, young farmers “digging in” to farming, seeing it as a viable business opportunity, urban millennials are starting rooftop gardens, immigrants are planting community gardens, school children are learning how to plant vegetables and we celebrate communities like Easton, PA who are forging a new economy with restaurants and food-related businesses like the new Easton Public Market.
So, we want to hear your (food) story.
You’re invited to join me and other members of our community to tell your story at the kick off of the Food in the Public Square – The Collective Human Experience project next Friday, May 20th at the Fowler Center at 511 East 3rd Street (6th floor) on Bethlehem’s Southside.
There will be a full day of fun activities, but you are especially invited from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the lunch/discussion. We will treat you to lunch, a panel of scholars will explain why we’re having this conversation — and then…during small group table discussions, we’ll hear and collect your food-related stories.
Additionally, I’d like to ask you to bring a friend. Not just any friend, though. Please invite someone you know whose food-related story you believe has not been adequately told or heard. If they need a ride, please offer to drive them.
We expect the stories we collect to be diverse. They may illustrate the excitement of food entrepreurship, the frustration of food access related to age or income, what it’s like living in a food desert, what it feels like to not be able to access ethnic food or fresh produce, successful or failed experiences with gardening or farming, or some other related topic.
Permit me to explain.
RenewLV has been invited to partner with Northampton Community College and other organizations on an NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) funded project called “Food and the Public Square — The Collective Human Experience.” Throughout the next six months, we’re hosting public forums and programs to generate humanities-based community dialogue about human and cultural values related to food. It’s a fascinating project. You can read more about it here:
This conversation and our end product will be different than our previous community conversations that centered on food policy. This conversation will recognize the powerful impact of personal stories — stories of food, family and community — stories “of the heart.”
During three public lunch/discussions in May, July and October we will be collecting stories about food in the Lehigh Valley. Everyone is invited, but we are especially interested in hearing and recording the stories of the “under-heard.”
Later, an esteemed team of scholars will look at the stories we collect, identify themes and place them in an academic framework.
This will mean that these stories told at our events will be “heard,” in a deep sense, that they will get the attention of the academic community. We are lining up bi-lingual Spanish/English table hosts, so please feel free to invite your native Spanish-speaking friends whose English proficiency might make them otherwise reluctant to participate. And, since most people seem to like Spanish food, we’ll even have some of that for lunch.
The questions we will ask are:
- How important is food for you?
- Which are your concerns regarding food?
- How do you make your food choices?
- How have your eating practices changed between childhood and adulthood?
If you have enjoyed our previous lunch/discussions, we think you will really enjoy this one. This format gives us an opportunity to get to know each other better, take a “deep dive” into what stirs us about the larger conversation of food, family and community, and perhaps make some new friends…”breaking bread” will do that.
But, space is limited, so you need to reserve your spot. Please join us for lunch next Friday and share your “food story.” Click here to register.
The lunch/discussion is just a part of a full day of activities. If you could, it would be my recommendation that you clear your calendar for Friday in order to come early and stay late.
The day begins at 10 am with a nationally acclaimed scholar on the topic of food justice, Dr. Julie Guthman (If food justice is at all important to you, you will definitely want to come early to hear her!)
Here’s the day’s schedule:
- 10 – 11:15 am Dr. Julie Guthman, renowned scholar on food justice
- 11:30 am Lunch and Project Scholars “Why have this conversation?”
- 12:30 – 2 pm Community Conversation hosted by RenewLV
- 2- 4 pm Poetry Workshop with Marilyn Hazelton or
- 2 – 4 pm Second Harvest Food Bank Cooking Demonstration and Tasting
- 4:30 – 6:30 pm Film Screening and Talkback: Growing Cities @ ArtsQuest
Please reserve your spot and (and a place at the table for your friend) by registering at this link:
More details can be found at foodinthepublicsquare.com and the project’s Facebook page. Additionally, here is a Spanish copy of the poster for distribution.
Hope to see you there!