The Collegian
Thursday, February 22, 2024

One Book, One Richmond focuses on hunger and poverty

<p>Students and faculty attend a presentation related to One Book One Richmond.</p>

Students and faculty attend a presentation related to One Book One Richmond.

"The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement" by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis, this year’s campus-wide One Book, is bringing dialogue about poverty, hunger and healthy eating to University of Richmond’s campus through classroom discussions, service events and speakers.

"The Stop" tells the story of one organization that changed the way its Toronto community thought about food. Nick Saul, co-writer of the book and executive director of The Stop Community Food Centre, changed a food bank into a center equipped with gardens, kitchens and farmer’s markets to provide a low-income community with nourishment beyond food.

Of 30 students polled, only two seniors and one sophomore had read "The Stop" on their own time after hearing about it around campus. Six students had heard of the book or had seen it around campus. Molly Field, the chaplaincy’s community engagement program manager and overseer of the One Book, One Richmond program, responded to this potential lag in interest by explaining that the strength of the program goes in cycles and depends on many other factors, such as current events and other programs on campus each year. “We don’t require people to read the book,” Field said, “so there are strengths and weaknesses to that because, on the one hand, people are reading this book and coming to the programs because they’re really interested in the issues. But then, if folks aren’t forced to read it, they might not engage with it.” To combat this issue, a One Book subcommittee is working on a passive campaign to post information from the book around campus, Field said.

Nevertheless, some students, such as Chase Brightwell, Richmond College ’15, have picked up the book and read it on their own time. “I picked up the book from Booker Hall because I had read the One Book, One Richmond books in past years and had enjoyed all of them,” Brightwell said. “I think the book is important on campus because at UR healthy, quality food is often just a meal swipe away, and maybe most students don't understand how fortunate we are to not be fighting to eat every day.”

The One Book, One Richmond program, run by the Office of the Chaplaincy, is in its tenth year of selecting a campus-wide book each year and providing relevant programming throughout the year to supplement the book’s themes. A committee of more than 20 faculty, staff and one student choose the One Book each year from a list of suggestions, which students may submit online any time.

“I strongly believe that this program is really important to campus dialogue and a tool for driving awareness and engagement,” Andrew Talbot, the student representative on the One Book committee, wrote in an e-mail. Of this year’s choice, Talbot said, “For me personally, I think 'The Stop' has the right approach with holistic community driven initiatives focused on food as a cultural issue in addition to basic survival.”

“This book was chosen because there is a growing cultural awareness of the industrial food complex – where food comes from and the lack of access to healthy food, the cost of food,” the Rev. Craig Kocher said. “The story of 'The Stop' sees food not as a commodity and not simply as calories and health, but rather as the lubricant of community. Its purpose is to bring people together in really meaningful ways, for friendship and conversation and health.”

In addition to overseeing the program as university chaplain, Kocher discussed the book with students as part of the Roadmap to Success program and is using the book in his Justice and Civil Society class in the Jepson School. He said his favorite experience with this year’s book so far was visiting a community garden in south Richmond with Roadmap students. There, they met Duron Shavis, a community leader in the movement for food security throughout Richmond in a similar way to "The Stop" in Toronto.

The choice for this year’s book began during the nomination process last year, Field said. Although "The Laramie Project" was chosen as last year’s campus-wide book, there were many food-related nominations, including "Stuffed and Starved," "Food Justice," "The American Way of Eating," and "Salt, Sugar, Fat." Because there was so much interest, the committee decided that this year’s book would focus on food issues. The committee ultimately decided on "The Stop," suggested by committee member Elizabeth Ransom, a professor of sociology and co-instructor with Amy Treonis of the Eating Locally, Thinking Globally Sophomore Scholars in Residence Program.

“When we all read it,” Field said, “we were like, 'This is the book.' It just gets at everything we were trying to find, like American issues, issues of hunger and poverty, and what’s really causing those problems.”

Professors in departments ranging from environmental studies to leadership to the law school are using "The Stop" as assigned reading to spur discussion of sustainability, poverty and consumption. “I selected the book because I often teach about food sovereignty in my classes,” said Mary Finley-Brook, chair of the department of geography and the environment. “This provided a critical approach to understanding why food is not accessible to everyone and how to address political and social injustices in an empowering and innovative way.”

Students and faculty can download a free copy of the book online, according to the One Book, One Richmond webpage, or pick up a shared copy at designated areas around campus, such as the chaplaincy and Booker Hall. "The Stop" is also available at the library and bookstore.

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Campus service events related to "The Stop" this year include the Hunger Banquet Nov. 19, a Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event Feb. 21 and an alternative spring break trip focusing on food justice. There will also be service opportunities on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The chaplaincy is also working to bring a surprise speaker to campus to discuss similar topics in the spring.

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