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E.A.T.—Diversity for the Palate
05.29.13 |
As a recipient of one of 13 inaugural President’s Innovation Fund grants, Dr. Robert Valgenti, associate professor of philosophy, will aim to “make the College’s dining hall central to the College mission.” Valgenti is launching E.A.T. (Engage, Analyze, Transform) to inspire “cultural diplomacy” and to involve students in a diversity of food choices that will help them “eat and study ethically, nutritionally, and locally.”

Valgenti is so inspired that he will teach his class in the Mund College Center dining hall this fall. This summer, he will work with four students—Ashley Ferrari ’14, Kaitlyn Schroding ’15, Ashley M. Smith ’15, and Chloe Tarson ’14—on an independent research project where “each student will be responsible for one initiative that will positively affect food options in the cafeteria,” Valgenti said. “Each student will be responsible for introducing their initiative in a way that is empowering. This will complete the circle and bring the curriculum, and College mission, into the place where students spent most of their time outside of the classroom and residence halls.”

Many ideas, such as “Meatless Mondays” and “Locally Grown Lunch” have been suggested. “The grant will actively engage the students in my fall First Year Seminar on Food and Philosophy; I plan to focus on sustainability and food ethics in my spring Environmental Ethics course,” Valgenti added. “This type of programming will provide numerous opportunities for academic and administrative partnerships across campus, starting with our highly receptive food services provider and their general manager.”

In addition to his collaboration with LVC students, Valgenti has had a willing partner in the College’s dining services company, Metz Culinary Management. “Metz is always inspired to establish unique, mutually beneficial partnerships with the colleges and universities we serve,” noted Bill Allman, general manager of Metz at LVC. “We look forward to providing logistical and financial support to help make E.A.T. successful.”

The genesis for E.A.T. evolved from a question that kept reoccurring to Valgenti: “What would it mean to transform the College cafeteria into a shared, intellectual environment for learning, experimentation, and the exchange of ideas?” The E.A.T. program aims to combine the resources of academic programs, student affairs, and dining services in order to rethink the educational space beyond the walls of traditional classrooms. The purpose of this collaboration will be to further the institutional goals of critical thinking, ethical reasoning, respect for diversity, and commitment to sustainability. This program strives to make students thoughtful eaters who view the cafeteria not as a break from their intellectual development, but as a place where the intellect is engaged, challenged, developed, and brought into contact with the pleasures of the senses.

“E.A.T. programming will be flexible, student-driven, and adaptable to the needs and interests of the campus,” Valgenti said. “E.A.T. will engage campus constituents to promote and expand the many food-related initiatives already started by the Sustainability Advisory Committee, departmental programs, multicultural affairs, the Chaplain’s office, and others.

“Further, E.A.T. programming will connect with the Colloquium Series theme, encouraging points of connection among speakers, films, and courses,” Valgenti added. “It will support the content and goals of specific courses and programs. E.A.T. will partner with Metz Culinary Management initiatives to celebrate and promote local food culture, agriculture, and business, and strengthen the ties between the College community and the foodscape of central Pennsylvania.”

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