Slow foods club brings new focus to eating local at W&L

New campus club and official caterer of Friday Underground promotes eating healthy and local

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Shaun Soman '17

Diana Banks ’17 and David Heinen ’16 promote local eating at first meeting of their new club.

John Tompkins

Washington and Lee has over eighty clubs and organizations, but perhaps only one was founded with the purpose of simply getting people excited about food.

“Introduce yourself to three new people, and tell them what your spirit vegetable is.”

That’s how Diana Banks, ’17, began this year’s first official meeting of the Slow Food Club last Tuesday night.

According to Banks, the club’s president, it was introduced last year to both encourage students to recognize the significance of food in our society and support the local food movement here in Lexington.

Honey on bread

“Food is a huge part of our lives. It can bring us together in ways that not a lot of other things could. Eating is something we all do; it’s something we all enjoy, and it’s something that shapes our world unlike any other commodity or pastime,” Banks said.

The Slow Food Club is not unique to W&L, but rather, it’s a part of a global organization that promotes healthy eating and the idea that our food choices have a tremendous effect on not only our bodies but also the environment.

Along with celebrating food’s importance, another goal of the Slow Food Club here on campus is to connect students with the rich agriculture of the Shenandoah Valley region.

According to Vice President David Heinen, ’16, one could sustain a perfectly healthy, balanced diet with only foods found within one hundred miles of campus.

“One of the primary missions of Slow Food Washington and Lee is to introduce students to the beauty and bounty of their new home-away-from-home – the Shenandoah Valley.  I know that I personally, and our club collectively, have a deeply-rooted love for the Shenandoah Valley, and we take every opportunity we can to learn more about it, and share that knowledge with others,” Heinen said.

At the university, the Slow Food Club is currently the official caterer of Friday Underground, a weekly dinner cooked by students and held in the basement of ARC House. It is also set to take part in this October’s Taste of Lexington event, a potluck dinner hosted by local farmers and restaurants in Evans Hall.

But those aren’t the only events the organization’s leaders have in mind for this year.

“One idea we have is to host a ‘Dons de Noir’ type of event, which is meant to be a culinary experience without sight – diners are blindfolded to heighten the other 4 senses, and to encourage an appreciation of the meal they might not have otherwise,” Banks said.

It is the chance to take part in these experiences and see the importance of food from a different perspective that has drawn numerous students to the Slow Food Club.

Alice Kilduff, ’18, said she joined the organization because, “Over the summer it became my goal to build a better relationship with my food and where it comes from.”

Now, as Washington and Lee’s Slow Food Club chapter takes root, maybe students and faculty members across campus will become more aware of just how much the foods around them can impact their lives.