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College Students Learn Where Their Food Comes From (and Goes To)

Apr. 27, 2009

by Terra Madre 2008 delegate Annie Myers

Some projects are inspired by enthusiasm, some by curiosity, or morality, ambition, passion, friendship, or obligation. The inspiration for Radishes and Rubbish was born out of such a combination of these emotions that Carla and I never doubted our ability to draw others into our work. We are both novices and experts, both endlessly enthusiastic and quite stunningly naive. We had no idea what times were in store.

Radishes and Rubbish is (in elevator speak) a series of field trips to food production and processing sites and waste management locations within the New York City region. The Green Grant program of NYU’s meal is always made with ingredients sourced as locally as can be, grown organically if possible, and always made or sold by people or shops that we know and support. The participants are ideally freshmen in college, though they have ranged from librarians to chemistry professors, from film students to food distributors to the curious and unemployed. The destinations are up to us.

Carla and I came at the idea of our trips from slightly different perspectives. I study regional food systems; she studies socially responsible supply chains. She wanted to learn about the large-scale waste management centers where our trash so misleadingly seems to disappear; I wanted to share my friendship with and knowledge of several innovative and small food producers and processors in the region. As students at NYU’s Gallatin School, we both proposed parallel “field trip” projects in April 2008, without knowing of each other’s propositions. The Green Grant committee told us we would receive funding if we combined forces. And thus Radishes and Rubbish was born.

We have led our fellow students (and students at heart) to one recycling center, one artisan baker, two urban farms, two slaughterhouses, three cheese shops, three farms upstate (of which one composts NYU’s organic matter), one importer’s warehouse, and the second largest wholesale fish market in the world. We’ve just finished up the school year with two trips in one weekend: to a commercial rooftop greenhouse on the Upper East Side, and to the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island.


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