A social experiment — free food for a month

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The availability of free food on campus is extremely diverse.

For those of you who know me or have read the little bio blurb to the right understand that I love food. I love to grow, cook, bake, and eat food. Perhaps due to working on a farm and fully understanding the amount of effort exerted to grow quality food, I am adamant about not wasting food. Over the past four years on campus I have learned to carry Tupperware with me so as to not let food go to waste.

As of September 13th, I have embarked on a little social experiment – to solely sustain myself on “free food” for a month. As a recent graduate, I have learned that there are always events going on that offer food as an incentive to come. Currently, I am on day four of the Free Food Challenge (FFC) and during this first week I am creating some ground rules. The rules thus far are:

  1. Attend the event (it would be rude and unethical to go in and just take food without attending)
  2. Ask a question of the presenter(s)
    1. Try to bring in a idea from previously attended events to the question (promoting interdisciplinary thinking for myself)
  3. Talk to a stranger and tell them about my FFC
  4. Ask if I can take leftover food if there is food remaining
  5. Try to find out how many people the event estimated for and compare to the actual number of attendees
  6. Do not accept charity (e.g. someone hears about the challenge and decides to cook dinner for me)

Thus far, I have been to some really incredible events put on by an assortment of different departments, institutions, centers, and student groups.

On Monday, I went to a talk about intersectionality (the study of connections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination; e.g. sexuality, gender, race, and socioeconomics) hosted by the Center for Multicultural Affairs and moderated by Students Activists for Equality (SAFE). The talk made me think of a conference, Money & Meaning, hosted by Slow Money North Carolina I attended Friday in Pittsboro. At the conference about 100 people attended to learn more about investing money via affordable loans to projects that build the local food economy, specifically to combat food justice issues and also to support small food enterprises.   However, at the conference the racial and socioeconomic makeup of attendees did not reflect that of the larger community it aims to help. There were approximately 8 out of 100 people who did not look like they were from European descent (aka white). The tone of the conference appeared geared toward the majority demographic (middle class white). One attendee who was non-white raised the interesting point that action taken should be done thoughtfully and not as solely an act to wipe one’s hands clean of white guilt. One of the topics of conversation at the CMA’s talk was how to support and help groups; especially working together with one another to start coalitions opposed creating unbalanced relationships.

On Tuesday I went to a talk hosted by the Global Health Institute, Academic Global Health: The Swedish Experience. While the specific focus was changing the culture in Sweden to increase support for global health research, funding and initiatives, the importance of interdisciplinary cooperation was a main theme I picked up on. As I participate in different events that do not always have an obvious connection, it’s a fun challenge to try and connect the dots between these events and try to see how different themes relate to one another.

Cece’s month of September free food calendar.

Today I have gone to a talk on Digital Militarism in a Social Media Age, a You@Duke reception, and an overview of Energy Industry Fundamentals. While I’m only on day four of the challenge, the breadth of subjects I have already been able to learn about is fascinating. The whole FFC has made me think more critically about food waste, connecting the dots of different themes, and my privilege to have access to all this “free food.” The picture of the calendar is currently my most treasured item as it holds where my next meal will come from. If you would like to join me on my FFC feel free and hopefully I will meet you at some of the events that I will inevitably be attending in the next month!

I will be keeping a video blog to overview the assorted places and events I go to for the challenge.  Here is the Week 1 recap: