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Monday, Nov. 24, 11:36 a.m.
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Food Day places importance on healthy eating options

Food Day is a nationwide event that takes place annually Oct. 24 to celebrate the production and consumption of healthy, affordable and sustainable food. Food Day not only celebrates fresh and local foods but the farmers and local business that make it possible.

The Sustainable Agriculture Enthusiasts, or SAgE, made a cooperative effort with the national Food Day event and the inaugural opening of UMaine Greens — a new student-run greenhouse located next to the Littlefield Garden Nursery and behind the University Credit Union on Rangeley Road.

UMaine Greens intend to supply dining halls here on campus with winter greens, but it may be some time before that happens because it is still in the very beginning stages, with seedlings just barely peeking up through the dirt.

With time, the over 90-foot long, hoop-house style greenhouse will be able to produce food for students, “imagine if we had food grown for students by students,” said Laura Hackney, fourth-year environmental horticulture student and president of SAgE.

“SAgE is a collective of students from varying majors at the University that are excited and ‘enthusiastic’ about Maine’s local food and farming movement,” Hackney reported. “[SAgE’s] involvement with UMaine Greens consists of helping them to recruit like-minded students to volunteer with the projects and encourage all majors to have a hand in how food — particularly their own — is produced.”

According to Hackney the greenhouse may “have something by Christmas — something to show. Not enough for students, but maybe more for spring.

“UMaine greens came onto our radar this summer and we decided to collaborate the opening event of the hoop-house with national Food Day,” Hackney continued. “One of the major goals is to get college campuses to purchase more local foods at their dining halls, 20 percent by 2020. These are baby steps to what we feel could have a larger impact on our students and how they view what’s on their plate.”

Created in 1975 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the very first Food Day events aimed to raise awareness on food safety and nutrition issues.

Food Day takes place in different cities and towns across the country. It is successful because there are so many leaders in food movement and organizations that want to be a part of the movement to have Americans eat healthy, fresh and local foods.

According to the Food Day website, the food humans eat should strengthen one’s health, but “the American food system has created a diet of cheap, salty, overly processed packaged foods, high-calorie sugary drinks, and fast-food made of white bread, fatty grain-fed factory-farmed meat, and French fries.”

Food Day at UMaine was no exception. Tables of Maine-based foods, all donated by students or local farmers, were set up for the public to enjoy. It was a complete feast including bread, cheese, various soups and salads, stuffed peppers, beans, chicken wings, sausage and desserts.

Each type of food was represented by “food partner.” Bios featured each of the farmers who donated for the event. Recipes of all items were also available for people to share the Food Day mentality. All attendants were encouraged to eat local, healthy and sustainable food in order to strengthen the food movement and improve the nation’s food policies.