Student-Led CUNY FoodFest 2010 at Macaulay a success on many fronts

On Sunday, November 14, Macaulay Honors College hosted FoodFEST 2010, a daylong event that drew over 150 faculty, students, and friends of CUNY. It was one of the the biggest student-led and -conceived events in the building’s history.The event was made possible by a “Leadership-in-Action” grant from the Kenan Scholars Program at the Macaulay Honors College. The event’s primary organizers were Kenan Scholars—Dasi Fruchter ’12 (Queens), Lakshman Kalasapudi ’12 (Hunter), David Weinberger ’12 (Hunter) and Lashika Yogendran ’12 (Brooklyn) —though the effort was further supported by volunteers who were recruited from all seven Macaulay campuses.

In 2002, the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust made a generous pledge and created an endowment to fund the Kenan Scholars Program. From the outset, the overarching goal of the program has been to enhance honors education at CUNY by sponsoring a small group of outstanding Macaulay students who have demonstrated social courage and an early commitment to bettering the lives of others.

The program offers unique experiences and opportunities with the aim of fostering each student’s individual gifts—as well as encouraging cooperative endeavors—and helping them to make substantial contributions in their chosen fields. The ultimate mission of the program is to produce graduates who further the great CUNY tradition—making significant contributions to their city and state, and helping others to secure the high-quality education that they have received.

The goals of the William R. Kenan Scholars Program at Macaulay Honors College are to incubate and foster social vision and courage; to build identity and intention as agents of change; and to draw meaningful lines of connection between scholarship and the communities in which we live.

The event opened at 2 pm with a puppet show that skillfully engaged the audience in a new kind of food justice activism described as “snacktivism.” Performers from the Yellow Sneakers Production Company had students singing and clapping along as the puppets navigated the exciting and complex world of college activism.

Up next was panel discussion on the theme of “Digesting the Food Movements,” with presentations by and dialogue among Karen Washington (New York City Community Garden Coalition); Daniel Bowman-Simon (People’s Garden NYC); Dr. Tom Angotti (Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning, Hunter College); and Kerry Birnbach (New York City Coalition Against Hunger). The wide-ranging discussion covered everything from the origins of food access inequities and the role of activism to the significance of market incentives and the nuances of international food systems. Long after the panel was officially concluded, long lines of students remained—each eager to engage the panelists and continue the discussion.

Following the panel, FoodFEST participants moved downstairs to the Macaulay Commons to meet representatives from a variety of food justice organizations. There were representatives from ten nonprofits in the field speaking to students about opportunities to become involved on their campuses. Organizations included the Brooklyn Food Coalition; The CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities; Focus on the Food Chain; New York Food Systems Network; New York Faith and Justice; Slow Foods USA; and Uri L’Tzedek. Participants enjoyed baked goods and coffee served by the Brooklyn College Coffee Collective, a student-run catering business that exclusively uses organic, direct-trade ingredients.

Next up were concurrent events, and attendees diverged to take full advantage of the afternoon’s offerings. The Macaulay screening room was host to Fly on the Wall, a film about a grassroots effort to spark conversations bout the food system, made by Marna Chester and Jenny Montasir and One Penny More, a video by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers about supermarket labor practices.
At the same time, the Macaulay cabaret space was given over to an interactive mapping project with Farming Concrete; communal art projects; musical performances and a collaborative act of sandwich-making for the homeless.

Around dinner time, participants were split among three cooking lessons, led by the New York City chefs Margaret, Kelly, and Madea, each of whom employed her own unique style and flavors. The end result of these lessons was an abundance of delicious food, prepared communally from seasonal, local ingredients and then shared around a giant table in the cabaret space by all of the day’s attendees. Appropriately, FoodFEST concluded with a meal, as the CUNY food justice community gathered to enjoy each other’s company and the fruits of the food they had just cooked together.
In the spirit of the day, students took leftovers from dinner and the sandwiches that they had prepared, and distributed them to the homeless of New York. Students loaded up cars and vans and took part in a “Midnight Run”—an act of service that was a perfect cap to a day centered on a burgeoning community of food activists at CUNY.

The connections forged and the lessons learned on Sunday were only the beginning; FoodFEST 2010 represents the start of a city-wide movement of CUNY students for food awareness and justice.

About Macaulay Honors College
Macaulay Honors College at The City University of New York offers an exceptional academic and co-curricular environment. Macaulay students enroll in one of seven CUNY senior colleges (Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter, Lehman, Queens and Staten Island). Through the unique Macaulay advising program, each student develops a coordinated, individualized academic program that includes research, global learning, graduate and professional mentoring, community engagement, and close faculty-student collaboration. Selected for their top high school records and leadership potential, every Macaulay student receives a full-tuition scholarship, a laptop and technology support, a $7,500 study grant to pursue global learning and service opportunities, and a Cultural Passport that provides access to more than 200 museums, libraries, and other treasures around New York City. With the admission of the Class of 2014, Macaulay marks the beginning of its tenth year. For more information about Macaulay Honors College, see

Contact: Rich Dikeman, Director of Communications
Macaulay Honors College