Over the weekend, six students dueled for a prize for best research in food and agriculture.
The “Food Matters” competition, a new event hosted by the Yale Sustainable Food Project, took place at Saint Anthony Hall on Saturday and featured six student presentations centered around food and agriculture research. The winner was Julie Botnick ’14, who showcased her research on agriculture as a means of forming a collective identity in a Zionist agricultural colony. Taking second place was Vivienne Hay ’14, who presented on urbanization and food waste. The first prize winner was awarded $100 in cash and a gift certificate to Miya’s Sushi, while the second prize winner received a YSFP tote bag, a $25 gift card to the New Haven farmer’s market and a book.
“[The competition] is an opportunity to showcase amazing work that’s already being done but also a way of stirring up interest and showing people what’s out there,” said Abigail Bok ’14, one of the organizers of the competition. “The prize is just an added incentive.”
While the YSFP hosted a similar event last year where undergraduates presented food-related research, this was the first year a prize was offered. In general, the organization aims to facilitate research in food and agriculture, while bringing more sustainable food options to Yale’s campus.
Botnick’s winning presentation focused on a Zionist Agricultural colony of around 200 people that existed in Utah from around 1911 to 1915. She spoke about how the descendants attempted to create an identity for themselves out of the “back to the soil” mentality that had spurred their ancestors, but actually created an identity out of their own perceptions of their past. Her research was based on her senior thesis.
Hay’s second-place presentation focused on the waste of food that is endemic to developed countries. According to Hay, around 40 percent of food sold in the United States is wasted. She spoke about various solutions to the food waste problem, including shifting consumer preferences away from meat towards fruits and vegetables, advocating for smaller portion sizes and creating oxygen-sensitive packaging to better preserve the freshness of food products.
Topics of other presentations included “Policy Recommendations For a Continued Viable Local Food Economy,” “Mapping Food Sovereignty in Maine” and “The Modern Surrealist: The Id, the Ego, and Natural Transformation,” which compared fermented food to surrealist art.
“It’s really awesome to see what’s being done is so many different disciplines,” said Jacquline Lewin, programs manager for professional experience for the YSFP.
Mark Bomford, director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and Maria Trumpler, a women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor who has a background in food judged the competition.
Bok said the two were “natural picks” to judge the competition because of their involvement with the YSFP and the different expertise that they each brought.
“We all have different approaches, but we’re all right,” said Alma Alegria ’15, one of the participants in the competition. “I came because I wanted to share my perspective but also hear everyone else’s,” she added. Alegria’s presentation was titled “Food as a Site of Healthy Discomfort, Questioning, and Bond-making.”
The YSFP is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.