Food for All

Food for All

Pacific University students and alumni look "upstream" to find solutions to endemic hunger and malnutrition among Oregon's bounty.

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“I’m just a super-duper fruity lady.”

When she came to Pacific, she planned to study sociology or social work—the “people side” of hunger.

Then, “I had an epiphany one night, when someone was talking about a quince.” (That’s a fruit similar to an apple or pear, but native to southwest Asia.) “I was having another conversation with someone else, but I kept getting distracted; I was so excited to talk about food.”

She signed up for Pacific’s permaculture class, became an environmental studies major and ultimately completed her senior project by establishing a gleaning program that collected and donated otherwise unharvested fruit.

Under Glastonbury’s direction in October 2011, volunteers completed two harvests, giving the best quality apples and pears to area charities and splitting the rest between the volunteers and the homeowners who donated their fruit.

“I just want to get the fruit in the mouths,” rather than rotting on the ground, she said. 

She added she would like to see the program continue, expanding to involve the recipients of the donated food in the harvest process and also to include education for fruit tree owners on better tree care, which could lead to more productive harvests.

Both expansions, really, would be part of what Summers said is called “food sovereignty,” or the creation and ownership of your own food.

Summers first learned of the notion on a study abroad trip to the Amazon region of Ecuador the summer after her freshman year at Pacific. She said the people who students visited were extremely poor but still never worried about going hungry with the abundance of food produced by the rainforest. As outsiders came in, though—particularly big companies interested in drilling oil, building pipelines or patenting seeds—the people worried about losing their food sovereignty.

In reality, few people in the industrialized world are truly food sovereign, a fact that concerns environmental science Professor Deke Gundersen. He teaches and lives permaculture—a system that mimics nature, both in sustainable food production and in many other social and cultural systems—and worries about the day that fuel stores run out and the food distribution systems we depend on fail.

“Right now, we have really good access to food, and we’re still not doing it very well. We can get food from anywhere in the world, and what do we choose to do?” (Eat fast food.)

“I think we need to get back to eating locally, eating what’s really available. Once the fossil fuel economy ends, you’re not going to be able to have that mango grown in Mexico,” he said.

His home in Forest Grove features 18 fruit trees, a myriad of berries, herbs and raised-bed vegetable gardens.