Student Reps: the Student Voice in Vermont First – Part I

It’s hard to believe it is officially the end of the fall semester!  As we wrap up the semester – before I get to intended topic of this post – I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to a few stories from this past semester that involve eating invasive species, the reemergence of the coveted UVM Dairy Bar, Vermont spuds on VPR, to name a few. Check them out here – we’ve been busy!

The real crux of this post is to highlight two folks behind the scenes in the Vermont First world.  In fact, to give each their proper due, I will break this post into two.  This fall, we launched Vermont First Student Reps, an internship program for students at our Vermont campuses to learn more about Vermont First, sustainable procurement in Vermont and beyond, and to represent the student voice on each campus.  Today’s post highlights one of our Student Reps, and stay tuned for the second installment!

We spent some time with Student Rep Flannery Mehigan, a junior at University of Vermont, to learn more about why she is interested in Vermont First and what she does when she’s not focused on her Vermont First responsibilities!

FLANNERY MEHIGAN

Flannery bio pic
Student Rep Flannery Mehigan, UVM, getting ready for the holidays!

College: University of Vermont

Year: Junior

Major/Minor(s): Environmental Studies with minors in Psychological Sciences and Dance

Favorite class this semester: Contact Improvisation, a wonderful form of dance focused on exploration of bodies and their unique relations to space

Favorite Christmas food: My mom makes a delicious Moroccan Spiced Pie with squash, spinach, chickpeas, and a whole slew of amazing spices.

What does ‘local’ mean to you? When I think of local I think of a way to connect people to their homes and surrounding landscapes. When we make the decision to purchase local, we create a tangible and dynamic relationship between food and farmer. In the evening when I prep veggies grown in Vermont for my dinner, I feel overwhelming gratitude for the fact that I can make local a priority in my budget, that I can take the time to try my best to support Vermont producers as I strive to eat seasonally.

What interested you in being a VT First Student Rep? I’m interested in my position as a VT First Student Rep because it has continued to strengthen my perspective on local food systems. There is a whole arrangement of externalities to consider when thinking about bringing local food into institutions like colleges and hospitals – externalities I found myself neglecting to consider before this position. Farm to institution is an amazing movement and I feel immensely grateful to be witnessing it in a place like Vermont.

What have you enjoyed about your experience so far? I have loved my experience as a Student Rep thus far. I have enjoyed being able to think about the complexities of supply chains and consider the difficulties of food access. As a VT First Student Rep I’ve been able to strengthen my perspective of the Vermont food system and continue to foster a deeper connection to how I live and relate to food here.

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As promised…Meet the Vermont First Advisory Board!

We are very excited to announce the creation of the Vermont First Advisory Board! The Vermont First Advisory Board will support Sodexo’s Vermont First Initiative in realizing Sodexo’s goal of strategically increasing the purchase of Vermont products across Sodexo’s Vermont accounts. The Advisory Board is a tremendous ally in providing guidance to moving Vermont First objectives forward. The Board is made up of the following members:

Name Organization Representation Category
Bill Suhr Champlain Orchards  A person who operates a conventional vegetable farm (Eco-Apple Certified)
Jon Slason Harlow Farm A person who operates an organic farm
Tony Risitano Deep Root Organic Coop A person with an intimate understand of food aggregation operation
Mike Rosenberg Garuka Bars A value-added food product business owner
Sean Buchanan Black River Produce/Black River Meats A person with expertise in meat (slaughter, processing, marketing, storage) A distributor who distributes local food
Abbey Willard Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets A person involved in creating or advising policy in Vermont
Erica Campbell Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund Vermont Farm to Plate A person with experience in research and data analysis A person involved in creating or advising policy in Vermont
Olivia Pena University of Vermont A student who attends a Sodexo campus account in Vermont who eats campus food
Abbie Nelson NOFA-VT VT FEED A person who educates others about food and/or food systems A person with experience in research and data analysis
Vern Grubinger UVM Extension A food safety specialist
Heather Lynch-Ellis St. Michael’s College A person who educates others about food and/or food systems
Christina Erickson Champlain College A person who educates others about food and/or food systems
Doug Lantagne UVM Food System Initiative A person who educates others about food and/or food systems
Jane Clifford Clifford Farms Green Mountain Dairy Federation A person who operates a dairy farm

The experience and perspective of this strong group will be instrumental in moving the needle forward on Vermont First objectives.