By: Sophie Hunt
On Oct. 7, the warm fall air was filled with the scent of fresh produce as McMaster students filled Mills Plaza for the first ever Local Food Fest.
The event was hosted by Mac Farmstand, an MSU service that sells locally-grown fruits and vegetables on campus from June to October. The Local Food Fest brought together McMaster food initiatives such as MACgreen, Mac Bread Bin, and Mac Veggie Club, as well as numerous local food producers and distributors.
“Farmstand’s goal is to encourage students to have more local eating habits,” said Jonathon Patterson, Mac Farmstand’s director. “A lot of people enter university after living with their parents and being used to having meals with family. University is when we start to develop our food habits, and local food is so important.”
This year, Mac Farmstand has served an averaged of 200 people per day, almost double the number of clients it has seen in previous years. The Local Food Fest was created as a result of the increased interest in local food that Farmstand has seen.
One of the local vendors represented at the event was The Mustard Seed, a cooperative grocery store that sells food grown and produced in the Hamilton area. The store is located at the intersection of Locke Street North and York Boulevard in downtown Hamilton.
“Anything that can be local is local at our grocery store,” said Meg Makins, a representative from The Mustard Seed. “This festival is all about local food, so it was a perfect fit . . . I think [the event] raises awareness about the importance of local food, and it helps students realize that they can access local food in a simple way.”
The Farmstand closes on Oct. 31, so the service is brainstorming ways to continue to promote local food sources for students that have come to rely on local produce. “We’re looking at continuing past Oct. 31,” said Patterson. “The stand would be closed, but we’d be having local farmers come in for an interactive panel discussion.”
“We’re partnering with the residences to offer smaller cooking classes within residence for students to learn how to cook things that they can cook when living on campus,” added Patterson. “We’re also working on partnering with the Student Health Education Centre for having a dietician who would be at Farmstand just for one day, so if people have questions they can have those questions answered.”
This is the first year that Mac Farmstand has hosted the event on campus, but the service hopes to make the Local Food Fest an annual event.