Year of Food lecture series ends with collard greens and conversation

Chef and activist Bryant Terry spoke last week at Gettysburg College File photo

Chef and activist Bryant Terry spoke last week at Gettysburg College
File photo

By Brendan Salyards, Contributing Writer

The final program in the “Year of Food” lecture series was held at the Majestic Theater last Tuesday. Bryant Terry, a well renowned vegan chef and activist or “cheftivist”, delivered a talk the problem of food justice.

The night began with an introduction by Vice Provost Jack Ryan, who thanked the organizers of the Year of Food and introduced the speaker.

Terry began by giving some context to his work, explaining how he became involved in the issue which has defined his career. Born in Tennessee, Terry was raised on the home-cooking of the South and in 1992 became a vegan after hearing the song “Beef” and subsequently reading Upton Sinclair’s muckraker classic “The Jungle”.

This led Terry down a path which evolved into his fight for access to quality food for areas known as “food deserts”.

These areas, both rural and urban, often do not have access food necessary for nutritional diets. Terry has worked with non-profits across the country to develop programs to teach individuals about healthy eating habits and to develop cooking skills necessary to prepare nutritious meals.

He advocates the inclusion of those affected by the food deserts in conversations about to decrease food insecurity and made clear his support for the empowerment of people through cooking. His mantra throughout the presentation was to, “start with the visceral, to ignite the cerebral, and end with the political”.

In effect, Terry uses food as a medium to convey his political message. As part of the presentation, he screened a pilot of a show that he is in the process of developing, which profiles efforts to combat food insecurity in urban centers.

This episode covered an attempt in Oakland, California, Terry’s home, to develop an urban farm capable of delivering the freshest ingredients to a local restaurant. This project makes use of hydroponics and aquaponics, and it is currently being pitched for development at a larger scale.

Terry concluded his presentation by preparing one of his recipes for collard greens. As the smell of garlic permeated the room, he asserted that the reassertion of traditional African-American cuisine among those in urban centers can serve as both a preservation of cultural heritage and a solution to the problem presented by diets that lack nutritional value.

Before the event, students presented their work on issues of food justice in the Majestic Theater lobby as part of the first annual “Undergraduate Research on the Cycle” (UROC) symposium. The faculty-nominated student displays discussed a variety of local issues from the nutritious value of diets consumed by migrant workers to the effects of organizations like South-Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP).

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