Emory Report
October 20, 2008
Volume 61, Number 8

Feast organic
this turkey day

The Emory community has one more thing to be thankful for: A Heritage Harvest Feast will be held during lunch on Thursday, Nov. 13 at Emory Dining locations, to spotlight local foods and the importance of preserving endangered breeds of livestock. More details will
be posted at emory.edu/sustainability.

For those planning to cook on Thanksgiving, order forms are available at the Tuesday Farmer’s Market for a fresh, local turkey from a network of independent growers.



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October 20
, 2008
The time is ripe: Educator puts new face on food at Emory

By carol clark

Even in her windowless Cox Hall office, Julie Shaffer creates the earthy aura of a garden. It comes from the sky-blue of her turquoise jewelry, the leaf-red of her sweater, the scent of rosemary sprigs arranged in a basket and the chirp of a cricket beneath her desk.

“That’s my cell phone,” Shaffer apologizes, trying to ignore the interruption. But the cricket starts chirping again, and Shaffer reaches into her purse to take the call.

Since Shaffer took the position of sustainable food service education coordinator in August she has been busy, sowing new ideas about food on campus. The Emory sustainable food initiative calls for 75 percent of the campus food supply to come from local and/or sustainable sources by 2015. Acquainting everyone from dining staff to donors with the joys of eating locally is a crucial part of meeting that goal.

“Many people have grown up thinking of the McDonald’s Happy Meal as the standard of good taste. I have my work cut out for me,” says Shaffer, former editor of Edible Atlanta magazine.

McDonald’s was not part of Shaffer’s childhood in northwestern Ohio, where her grandparents on both sides were Mennonite farmers. “I loved going out to the farms to see the animals, run through the fields, and pick pears and vegetables,” she says. Her version of a Happy Meal is her grandmother’s farm-fresh, hard-boiled eggs mixed with pickled beets. “The egg turned bright pink,” she recalls. “I always loved that.”

Shaffer went on to a 30-year career as an art teacher, most recently at Redan High School in Stone Mountain, where she lives. But her passion for fresh, local foods remained a big part of her life. She raises Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, figs, blueberries and herbs on her large plot of land, and she loves to cook simple, flavorful meals. “I’m really good at making ice cream,” she says. “My favorite is lemon-basil flavored.”

For the past 14 summers, Shaffer has rented the same 15th-century farmhouse in Tuscany, Italy, where people take great pride in their food culture. Shaffer’s daughter India, now 16, took her first steps at the farmhouse. “I hang the laundry out on the line and I cook in the kitchen,” Shaffer says. “For the few weeks I’m there, I pretend it’s my place.”

It was in Italy that Shaffer first heard of Slow Food International, a movement to counteract fast food and fast-paced living by nurturing local food traditions. “It’s about bringing the pleasure back to eating,” Shaffer says.
She started the Atlanta chapter of Slow Food in 2000, helping it grow from 30 members to 500 today. She hopes to bring the same momentum for sustainable food to Emory, managing events such as the Tuesday Farmer’s Market, cooking demonstrations, picnics, potlucks and more.

“I think it’s arrogant to assume that people would want to pay more for local, organic food without knowing why it costs more to produce, and why it’s better for the environment,” Shaffer says. “My job is to help people understand that sustainable means producing food in a way that doesn’t harm the Earth.”

Students are especially open to new ideas, and are the key to the future of our food culture, Shaffer says. “I’m not a purist or a member of the food police,” she adds. “The food police and the diet food industry have taken a lot of the fun out of food. And we keep getting fatter and fatter.”

Shaffer aims to bring everyone to the table to break bread together, not count calories. “Our food sources did not become industrialized overnight, and they’re not going to be become localized overnight either,” she says. “But I don’t think sustainable food is a trend. I think it’s a cultural paradigm shift.”