design · environment

UW students focus on how to get local food to their dining hall tables

local food madness
getting local foods to a big institution can be tricky.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I am a huge proponent of consciously choosing locally sourced food and products for consumption. Not only does it use less fossil fuels, I think buying and eating local also creates a better, healthier, and more enriching environment for us all.

It’s easy enough for individuals to choose and cultivate local food, but how does a larger institution like a university, or individuals living on campus, get access to the same local goods? One class at the University of Washington did a problem-solving project to come up with solutions to eating local. From the University of Washington:

Recipes that come boxed with fresh ingredients ready to cook? How about a monthlong incentive program inspiring a commitment to fresh local food? What would it take?

The class was Introduction to Interaction Design, Art 381, and the assignment Tad Hirsch gave his students was straightforward: Design a way to improve access to fresh local food on the UW campus.

“The students looked at how the UW community currently feeds itself,” Hirsch said, “and considered a range of factors that currently make it hard for students, faculty and staff to eat locally.” He said they took an interaction design approach to the problem, asking what experiences they wanted to provide for people. “They then had to come up with concrete proposals to make local food more accessible.”

It’s all pretty theoretical for this undergraduate class of mostly juniors, he said. “But we hope to take some of these ideas and make them tangible. There’s the notion that this stuff is meant to go out into the world.”

Hirsch is an assistant professor who came to the UW a couple of months back from Intel Corp. in Oregon. He said he is pleased to be part of the UW’s “small but mighty” program in interaction design.

So, what did the students come up with? Some pretty interesting stuff, actually:

Read their solutions at From crate to plate: Students study how to improve campus access to fresh local food

anthropology · community · education · happiness · school

Creating tribe through education

Students at Washington High School at class, t...
Working on a project together with a group can create a sense of "tribe." Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Having a community or “tribe” is one of the essential things all humans need in order to be happy, healthy, and really survive. In the predominantly urban, mobile environment most of us live in now, it can be hard to develop and maintain a tribe.

The UW Professional & Continuing Education Program recently published a blog post addressing the idea of tribe, and how we create that in modern, usually urban settings through education. One of the most common ways we create tribe is through what we spend time learning; taking Yoga, getting certified in Fiber Arts, sharing this knowledge, love, and in a way a rite of passage with others definitely creates a sense of community and tribe.

History defines tribes as groups united by shared ideas, values and goals. Godin and others put a 21st century spin on the term to empower ordinary people to lead big changes, including the pursuit of a new career.

For Tammie Schacher, the big change was to transition out of the architecture profession and into the nonprofit sector, where her goal was to align her values and passions with a new career. To get started, Schacher enrolled in the UW Certificate in Nonprofit Management where she joined a cohort of fellow students who would go through the program together.

“At the beginning the instructor told us that these groups become very tight knit and that we’d start relying on each other,” she says. “We didn’t necessarily believe that, but by the second quarter we realized we had not only started to rely on each other but that we’d become a family.”

The blog post goes on to discuss how to get the most out of putting yourself in this new, tribal situation:

Both Matthews and Schacher believe that getting the most out of being part of a tribe that starts in a continuing education classroom is fairly simple. First, say both, be open. “Have a little courage and put yourself out there,” says Matthews. “The structure of a classroom is a great place to try something out.”

Read more at: Find Your Tribe, Foster Your Future

There are lots of opportunities to create a tribe based on shared knowledge, and to create new ones based on group learning. We can also create tribes online through forums and blogs, as well as allegiances to sports teams or other athletics. Anything from military service to attending a concert can create a sense of tribe.

What are some of the surprising places you have found and/or created a tribe of like-minded people?