Claremont Food Justice Summit: Beyond Dining Halls

Food on campus is a point of pride for the Claremont Colleges. Frank Dining Hall at Pomona College has won praise from students because of its convenient location near the first-year dorms and the quality and diversity of food it offers. Last Thursday evening, Mar. 31, as a part of The Claremont Food Justice Summit, Frank Dining Hall hosted a dinner bursting with flavor and new ideas.

The meal was made up of organic, fresh, seasonal ingredients, all of which came from local farms such as The Growing Club, Hanuri Farm, and Huerta del Valle. The  menu offered a wide range of dishes, from ratatouille-stuffed baby portobella mushrooms and carved Niman Ranch smoky tri-tip, to salvaged vegetable salad and banana crepe. The variety and quality of the food certainly exceeded that of the daily fare--the salad bar alone had six different options to choose from.

The summit made an effort to bring in food that students don't usually see on their plates. 

“What I liked most about the dinner is that we had the opportunity to try food that is not available in the dinning halls on a regular basis,” Jessica Phan PO ’19 said. 

But the dinner was more than just a treat for the taste buds. One of the event's organizers, Olivia Whitener PO ’19, explained in an email to TSL that the intention was “to feature organic/sustainably grown produce, to support local farms by buying their produce and providing information about the farms, and to create a menu that produces as little waste as possible. There were lots of salads showcasing the fresh vegetables, including a salvaged vegetable salad that used parts of the vegetables that would have otherwise been thrown away, and pickled watermelon rinds.”

The community farms provide local, affordable, and organic food for the region, and organizers hoped that the event would be inspired by the culinary creativity shown.

“We really wanted to show the students what food made with these high quality and sustainably harvested ingredients can taste and look like and teach the students about food as well," said Whitener. "I hope people got a greater appreciation and understanding of organic produce and of the local farms that grow it. I also hope that young men and women were exposed to a different idea of what could be eaten”

The ingredients provided by local farms were not all that went into the creation of this delicious dinner. As Whitener pointed out, the cooks and dining staff played a crucial role in the process.

“I was also super impressed with the menu and the way Chef Love embraced the philosophy we were going for.”

With the success of Thursday’s Farm to Frank dinner, The Claremont Food Justice Summit kicked off a weekend of exciting events. Striving to increase education in various aspects of food justice, the four-day conference brought several speakers, panels, and discussions to campus. For example, on Saturday, an ecofeminist activist from University of Wisconsin discussed ecopolitics and ethics around the manipulation of milk and sustainable food access, as well as how cultural perceptions of food can shape their identities. On Saturday night, Executive Director of Hunger Action Los Angeles Frank Tamborello and Policy Associate at Los Angeles Food Policy Council Iesha Siler gave a talk about farmers markets, discussing the policy and instrumentation of the promotion of equal access healthy food in the Los Angeles area.

We are fortunate to have access to healthy and delicious food at the Claremont Colleges. But poor nutrition, agricultural pollution, and other environmental injustices are occurring all around us throughout Los Angeles and by people living as nearby as Ontario. Educational opportunities like those created by The Claremont Food Justice Summit allow us to look beyond the dining halls and ask ourselves how we can make change.