Advocates hope Food Day eventually gains same staying power as Earth Day

In spring 1970, at a time when industries could pump and dump practically whatever they wanted into the skies and waters, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson created a day that called attention to the need for regulatory change.

Nearly 20 million Americans demonstrated throughout the country, and by the end of that year the Environmental Protection Agency was created.

Each April 22, now known as Earth Day, is marked by parades, festivals and other events.

Five years after the first Earth Day, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sponsored Food Day to raise awareness of food safety and nutrition issues. It lasted just three years.

More than 35 years later, the same organization thinks the nation is ready to address the issues of a healthy and sustainable food system. And this time it is a topic that could have the staying power of Earth Day.

“People want to support local food and reconnect with food producers. In the states, I see that coming up again and again,” said Catherine Kastleman, a Food Day project coordinator.

Hundreds of events are planned across the country to celebrate the return of Food Day on Oct. 24. Celebrity chefs will be serving dinner in Times Square, and more than 15,000 people are expected to attend a regional food festival in Savannah, Ga.

While there isn’t anything quite so flashy here, Douglas County will have more than a dozen events throughout the next two weeks to celebrate Food Day.

Haskell Indian Nations University is using Food Day to promote recognizing indigenous foods. It will have speakers, workshops and an indigenous food feast.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital is hosting a kids-focused nutrition carnival, and the Raven Book Store will have a book reading.

“There is so much to do this week, you can’t attend everything,” said Patty Metzler, a dietician at Lawrence Memorial Hospital who is the community coordinator for Lawrence’s Food Day activities.

On Oct. 24, the Douglas County Food Council will release a report that looks at Douglas, Jefferson and Franklin counties’ food systems. The report examines how much money is spent on food, how much is produced and consumed in the region and the number of residents who live in “food deserts.”

“It sets forth what kind of areas we have to focus on and what really needs attention,” said Eileen Horn, the sustainability coordinator for the city of Lawrence and Douglas County.

The number of events from different groups highlights just how much the community has rallied around the local food movement in recent years and the many reasons it is being supported.

“I’m so proud of the people around here who are so involved,” Metzler said.

The intent of Food Day is to take a holistic view of the food system, Kastleman said.

“Food Day is a great opportunity for people to advocate and work together on not just one aspect, but trying to fix the entire American food system. To improve it, to make it more healthy, sustainable and affordable for everybody,” Kastleman said.

Food Day is founded on six principles:

  • Reduce diet-related diseases by promoting safe, healthy foods.

  • Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness.

  • Expand access to food and alleviate hunger.

  • Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms.

  • Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to children.

  • Support fair conditions for food and farm workers.

Organizers hope those principles will continue to be promoted during Food Days years from now.

“Imagine if 30 years from now it is as big as Earth Day. It is exciting to be in on the ground floor,” Horn said.

Food Day Activities


7 p.m.

Haskell Auditorium, Haskell Indian Nations University

Kicking off Haskell’s Indigenous Food Festival will be a keynote address from Casey Camp-Horineck, a member of the Ponca Nation, longtime native-rights activist, environmentalist and actress.


1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Stidham Union, Haskell

Haskell will host a series of workshop on indigenous foods. Sessions will focus on school garden curricula, tribal food projects, food sovereignty and seed-saving projects.

5:30 p.m.

Stidham Union, Haskell

An indigenous food cooking contest will be held. Categories include chili, stews or soups, side dish and dessert. All dishes should have ingredients commonly found in Native foods or are indigenous to the region. The cooking contest will be followed by the indigenous foods feast at 6 p.m.


2 p.m.

Harter Union lobby, Baker University

Baker Servers, a community service organization, will host a Numana SWIPE Out Hunger food packaging event that aims to package 20,000 school meals for Haitian relief.

5 p.m.

Harter Union Dining Hall, Baker

An OXFAM Hunger Banquet will feature recent Baker graduate and food activist Blain Snipstal and Marta Chiappe, a sociology faculty member at Universidad de la Republica in Uruguay.

7:30 p.m.

Rice Auditorium, Baker

Cornelia Butler Flora, a professor of agriculture and sociology at Iowa State University, will give a talk on Climate Change, Food Security and Food Sovereignty. She’s the featured speaker at Baker University’s Food Day celebration

Monday, Oct. 24

11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Harter Union lobby, Baker

A Real Food Information Fair will feature local organic farmers, diet and disease specialists, food activists, Baker Farm Hands, Baldwin Food Pantry representative and dining services purchaser.

2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Multicultural Resource Center, Kansas University

The KU Center for Sustainability will host a talk on the role of higher education in fighting hunger. The discussion will look at what the campuses are doing and what they could be doing from both an academic and service perspective.

7 p.m.

Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St., Lawrence

Alison Cain will read excerpts from Girls Got Guts, a booklet of interviews from small-scale, sustainable women farmers in the region. The event will also feature a panel of local community leaders, who will discuss the importance of local foods and how they can be incorporated into the community. And, there will be sampling of local foods.

9 p.m.

Owens Audio Visual Room, Baker

“Dirt! The Movie” will be shown. The documentary looks at the relationship between humans and dirt, a resource that helps sustain life.

Tuesday, Oct. 25

11 a.m.

Mabee 100, Baker

A workshop on sustainable growing practices will be presented by Steve Pierce and Matt Williams

Wednesday, Oct. 26

4 p.m.

Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass., Lawrence

The Douglas County Food Policy Council will discuss their recommendations with the Douglas County Commission regarding a report that examines the regional food system.

Thursday, Oct. 27

5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Baker University dining room

A virtual farm tour will feature many local growers and producers.

Friday, Oct. 28

12 p.m.

Harter Union lobby

Speech Choir performance will focus on real food topics.

Saturday, Oct. 29

9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Lower level of Lawrence Memorial Hospital

Lawrence Memorial Hospital will host a kid-centric nutrition carnival that will include booths and speakers that promote healthy eating for children. Seed packets will be handed out to encourage children to become involved in food production.

By Christine Metz


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