Love Of Food is a Great Sustainability Motivator

NWEI Staffer Liz Zavodsky and OCI's Ramona White
NWEI Staffer Liz Zavodsky and OCI’s Ramona White

Today’s NWEI Changemaker Interview is with Chef Instructor Ramona White, who teaches food ethics and social responsibility at Oregon Culinary Institute. Ramona has been using NWEI’s Menu for the Future course book in her culinary arts classes for several years – and reminds us that love of food is a great sustainability motivator!

What has been a primary motivator in your becoming a leader in teaching about sustainable food?

My primary motivation for teaching my students about the importance of sustainable food comes from my love of flavor rather than innovation. Running neck and neck with flavor would be community. I have come to know a number of local farmers in my years working at local farmers markets, and I am in awe of their dedication, hard work, passion and patience. It’s important to me that future chefs understand where, but even more importantly who their food comes from.

Tell us what inspires you to keep sustainability at the fore in your classes.

Sustainability is always at the fore of what I teach because it’s what creates the conditions for success in all the areas of life. A restaurant can’t be successful for very long unless it’s run in a sustainable manner.

Share one story of something that worked in your efforts to engage students around sustainable cuisine. What contributed to the success?

I think my greatest success story came recently in discussing Measure 92 (a measure to require labeling on GMO products in Oregon) with students, I had a student tell me that she never saw a reason to vote before, but understands now, as a cook, and a future business owner, how much her vote would count. I think of that as the greatest achievement I’ve ever made in the classroom. The readings in Menu for the Future, and the movie The Future of Food were key in her understanding of GMO issues.

What insight and wisdom can you offer to other faculty and staff who are working to make a difference on their campuses? 

Passion is the only wisdom I can offer. If you feel passionately about the material, infuse it into the classroom.

*To learn more about NWEI’s work with colleges and universities, click here. For more on our Menu for the Future curriculum, click here.

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