Summit on Sustainability examines food systems at Northwestern and beyond
  • Speaker Dr. Ty Witten explains his company Monsanto's usage of modern farming techniques, including the use of genetically modified plants.
  • During the lunch period, student organizations and businesses displayed posters touting their missions and interest in sustainability, including several of Engineers for a Sustainable World's groups.
  • Panelists answer questions and concerns voiced by audience members.
  • A mix of both students and Evanston community members joined NUSOS for their Summit on Sustainability. They ranged from interested citizens and business owners to members of the clubs that helped put on the summit.

Engineers for a Sustainable World hosted their fifth annual Summit on Sustainability (NUSOS) on Friday called “Your Plate, Your Planet.” With ten speakers lined up, NUSOS’s summit tackled various aspects of food security and sustainable food sourcing, including university meal plans, food deserts, zero waste grocery stores and modern farming practices. With over 100 students and Evanston community members in attendence, NUSOS can claim the event as a great success.

The summit included five events: three speeches and two panels, each sponsored by a different campus organization. Spoon University presented the first speaker, Leila Virji, a sustainability representative for Sodexo. She kicked the day off close to home, and spoke about the efforts and goals of Northwestern’s on-campus food provider to support environmentally conscious dining. These efforts are a part of Sodexo’s larger “Better Tomorrow” plan, which ranges from changing equipment and processes for better energy efficiency and reduction in water consumption, reducing organic waste, and buying sustainable or local produce and cleaning supplies.

The next event, brought by the campus garden student group, Wild Roots, was a panel of four individuals involved in various parts and perspectives of farming. Former chef and healthy food advocate Erin Meyer brought perspectives on the health and wellness and nutrition side, while Dr. Ty Witten from Monsanto spoke about problems facing feeding the world and how large scale, GMO agriculture provides solutions. CEO of FarmedHere Mark Thomann explained how organic farming can be taken indoors and, thus year round, through aquaponics and other such practices that work towards an almost closed loop system. Finally, Allison Glovak, from the restaurant Uncommon Ground, echoed Thomann’s thoughts on closed loop systems by introducing her restaurant’s unique rooftop garden, which provides fresh, innovative dishes for customers.

After the panel, lunch from Whole Foods was served, while attendees could walk around a poster fair of several sustainability-minded student groups and community organizations, including giveaways of fresh produce from Midwest Foods, a provider for Sodexo. During this time, community members and students mingled and talked with the speakers more personally.

Some students may have come for the free food, but many stayed for the next panel, hosted by Project Wildcat, on Chicago food deserts. Gerry Maguire brought insight into food operations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, from his position as Vice President of Supply Chain, revealing that education and networking is key to fighting hunger. Rebekah Silverman spoke from her background growing up on a farm herself, and about the Chicago non-profit Growing Home’s efforts to support urban farming and job growth. Finally, Steven Casey talked about his extensive efforts and plans for providing fresh produce and food through a mobile market run by the local group Fresh Moves.

Design for America brought to the summit Joshua Blaine, the manager of in.gredients, a Texas zero waste grocery store, which is a sixty percent waste-free grocery store. He spoke about the financial balance of this model and the community and consumer awareness aspect his store provides. NU Real Food presented Beth Osmund, who spoke on behalf of Slow Food Chicago, about their efforts to promote high quality, sustainable food sources with a focus on social justice.


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