Though traveling through Italy enjoying wine-tastings and local delicacies may sound like a simply ideal vacation, Emily Moschowits ’16 is taking what she’s learned this summer in the food and wine capital of the Mediterranean and applying it to Hamilton’s own local community. Under Assistant Professor of Philosophy Alexandra Plakias ’02, Moschowits is in the final stages of a food-studies project, funded through the Levitt Center, addressing methods of promoting local sustainable food in the Upstate New York area.
As a double major in biology and food studies, the latter being an interdisciplinary major of her own design, this project falls directly in line with Moschowits’ academic interests; interests born from a number of formative experiences early in her undergraduate career. By the end of her sophomore year Moschowits had already taken part in two internships relating to community work and local food production, at the Cornell Cooperative Extension and Leaf, Loaf and Ladle, respectively, both arranged through the Coop. “I also got some farm experience on my pre-orientation trip,” she said, “which really informed my choice of major.”
Moschowits’ project consists of two main research stages, the first in Italy -- where the Slow Food movement began -- and the second interviewing local farmers in Upstate NY. “I went to different areas in Italy, starting in rural areas and then moving to the urban, ending in Milan,” she explained. During her travels Moschowits vied to speak to individuals from every angle of the food-production industry, from small scale producers to massive operations, and in every level of the supply chain. Of particular interest was the University of Gastronomic Sciences, also known as the “Slow Food University,” located in Piedmonte in northern Italy. “What makes (UGS) interesting is it’s not just a culinary school,” she said. “They also teach the social, cultural and environmental impacts of food, how we get it and where it comes from.”
After returning from Italy, Moschowits started the second stage of her project, interviewing local farmers and members of the food-production community in Upstate New York. “I learned a lot, I loved Italy and want to travel more, but I also learned ways in which I can support local agriculture, and become more connected to the community,” she said. “Because of this project I know all my local farmers, which is really important to the Slow Food concept.” Moschowits was so impacted by the project that she is considering pursuing additional Levitt funding post-graduation, with the goal of starting her own non-profit in the Utica area, organizing community and urban gardens.
Most importantly, Moschowits took lessons away from her time in Italy that she said could be profitably applied to the Upstate community. In particular, elements of the Slow Food movement such as its focus on local produce, environmentally-conscious production, and community involvement could make a big difference in and around Utica -- an area where farms are all too often underfunded and undersupported. “I wish people knew how important it is where our food comes from and how we make our food choices,” she said, adding some advice for everyday consumers. “People can make a difference: buy local, not just organic, and know your farmers. These are sort of the standard answers that you always hear, but they’re really true.”
While Italy may not possess the magic-bullet that can solve all of America’s food woes, certain aspects of the Slow Food ideology may present a valuable starting point, Moschowits concluded.