Leadership, sustainability and free food were all ingredients incorporated into Sackville’s latest Lettuce Eat community meal. Lettuce Eat is an initiative led by Mount Allison-based sustainability group Eco-Action. At each meal, students and community members are invited to stop by the Manning Room in the basement of the campus chapel for a free vegetarian or vegan meal cooked by Eco-Action members.
Funded through the Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU) and an initial donation from Leadership Mt. A, the group also accepts donations at their events.
Based on similar initiatives at universities in Québec and Nova Scotia, four community meals were hosted last year, with an average turnout of between 80 and 100 people.
Caeleigh Marshall, secretary of Eco-Action, hopes Lettuce Eat will promote a larger conversation about environmentalism in Sackville.
“One of our goals is to foster a sense of community. We really want to create a space where people can come together, eat, meet new people, and also discuss food security, our carbon footprint and other environmental issues,” Marshall said.
Eco-Action takes steps to make the meal eco-friendly by buying local produce, reducing food waste and asking students to bring reusable dishware.
According to Marley Caddell, president of Eco-Action, the group’s focus is on “simple, tangible actions that don’t necessarily have a direct global impact but definitely make environmentalism more accessible to students of all disciplines.”
Anna Laurel Jamieson, environmental science student and vice-president of Eco-Action, said that all of the produce used in the community meal is purchased from Sackville farmers. Lettuce Eat also tries to buy “ugly produce,” edible produce that is bruised or strangely shaped that would otherwise be thrown out. “We want to bring awareness to the fact that even if produce isn’t the most attractive, it is still usable and doesn’t need to be thrown out,” Jamieson said.
Jamieson explained that Lettuce Eat contacts local farmers and collects the veggies, then gets together as a group to make soup to serve at the event on a first-come, first-served basis. “We really encourage people to bring their own Tupperware and cutlery so they can take it to go if they need to between classes.”
Reducing food waste in Sackville is one of Eco-Action’s goals. “We’ve been trying to work with local grocery stores to divert food waste but it’s been a bit difficult because they don’t really want to for liability reasons,” Marshall said. Eco-Action will continue to attempt to work with local grocery stores to reduce food waste in the future.
Eco-Action would also like to make Lettuce Eat a monthly event to create a greater presence on campus and develop a more sustainable relationship with farmers.
The group runs a number of other community initiatives such as garbage cleanups, documentary screenings and Ethical Giving craft nights throughout the year. It also organizes Mt. A’s participation in the annual Campus Climate Challenge, an inter-university competition to reduce carbon emissions that occurs every winter.
The group plans to advocate for more reusable water bottle refill stations on campus and for a change to the local garbage system.