Just Food Picnic calls for food sustainability

By JAMES SCHARF | April 19, 2018



Students ate free vegan food on the Keyser Quad for Earth Week.

As part of Earth Week, the Office of Sustainability hosted an event called the Just Food Picnic, which featured local food producers, food educators and charitable organizations, on Wednesday. 

The Just Food Picnic consisted of members from both Hopkins and the local community. Sophomore Alex Walinskas, an organizer of the event, said that the Just Food Picnic centers around the intersection of sustainability and food system justice. 

She hopes that this is an intersection that Hopkins will continue to explore beyond Earth Week. 

“Bon Appetit does a lot of work to try to serve real food in their dining halls and lowering carbon footprint,” she said. “But constantly working to source local and pushing meat free and lowering our meat consumption would be awesome.”

Walinskas appreciated how effective planning and community involvement made the event possible.

“We had a lot of partners in the community who were really receptive to being involved in this,” she said. “We just did a lot of planning ahead of time, we just started early.” 

Junior Cameron Little said that the event taught him to be more mindful about the amount of waste involved in preparing certain types of food, such as red meat. 

Little also noted that the event featured organizations that were actively working toward fixing some of Baltimore’s current struggles with sustainability.

“There’s a lot that can be done,” Little said. “We were talking about transforming vacant lots so we can use those areas. Like community gardens that could partner up with community centers to grow food.” 

Junior Kimberly Zou learned that many Hopkins alumni are involved with charitable organizations in Baltimore.

“It’s really cool to see Hopkins graduates go off and improve the Baltimore community through sustainable practices,” Zou said. “They’re getting paid five percent above the poverty rate, and it’s amazing that they’re willing to sacrifice better salaries to help the local community.”

Shaiteria Williams, a program assistant at the Institute for Integrative Health, represented her organization at the Just Food Picnic. She said that many locals are critical of the University for its role in gentrification in the City. 

“Hopkins is such a big institution that it doesn’t have the best name with a lot of Baltimoreans,” Williams said. 

She discussed what Hopkins could do to improve the way Baltimore community members view it.

“A little more outreach could show that Johns Hopkins is not as bad as a lot of people think,” she said. “That would be the best thing, to get out into the community.”

Unlike most Earth Week activities, the Just Food Picnic was co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability and Real Food Hopkins.

Earth Week is scheduled from Monday to Friday, April 20. On Monday, Students for Environmental Action (SEA) organized a T-shirt tie-dying event and held a free thrift store where people could drop off old clothes and pick up new ones. On Wednesday, the Hopkins Organization for Programming (HOP) gave free succulents to students on the Beach. 

According to SEA President Kyra Meko, Earth Week serves to make students more environmentally conscious and encourage them to spend time outdoors. 

“I love that it falls right when the weather starts to get warm,” Meko said. “It’s just a fun week to work together with other clubs to put on events to raise awareness about sustainability.”

Meko explained that several organizations and clubs on campus put on events with mixed goals in mind, all connected somehow to the outdoors.

“There are definitely events geared towards different things. Some events are just fun — you get free stuff — but then with other events, like our tie-dying event, we wanted to encourage people to say no to fast fashion and buy thrifted things and make things for themselves,” Meko said.

In addition to SEA, other organizations involved include Sustainable Hopkins Innovative Projects, Refuel Our Future and Take Back the Tap. 

Meko was pleased with what Earth Week was able to accomplish.

“It’s been really successful, especially just in getting clubs and people outside who never would be before,” she said. “There were people at the terrarium today who had never planted a plant.” 

Diva Parekh contributed reporting.

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