Growing Farms, not Food Deserts Alternative Spring Break! Featuring: Pizza night

This past week was an amazing experience for me. During our (early) spring break, I co-led an Alternative Spring Break trip (ASB) that stayed in Houston focused on the issue of food sustainability and food accessibility. Rice has been named one of the healthiest colleges in America—a fitting title given that our serveries make 90% of what’s served from scratch, have a fully stocked salad bar, and recently even feature more locally-sourced ingredients. However, this is a jarring contrast to the city in which Rice belongs—Houston has been deemed ‘America’s Fattest City.’ Our ASB looked at some of the factors that contributed to this, since it can hardly be all attributed to the lack of healthy eating choices. More specifically, one such factor is the presence of food deserts, or areas in which residents lack access to healthy, fresh, affordable food. For our trip, we worked at the Last Organic Outpost, a 2 acre urban farm in Fifth Ward, one of Houston’s prominent food deserts. The Outpost was a food oasis—with fresh herbs, vegetables, and even fruits growing in abundance. During our week there, we created more raised beds for planting later, planted a lot of seeds, and also reclaimed a neglected herb garden. We observed that while the farm was a rich resource to the surrounding community, it was under-harvested due to a relatively low community involvement. We’re hoping to help change that by planting more fruit trees as part of our reorientation project!

Of course—our trip wasn’t all work and no play. During the week, we divided ourselves into cooking teams to take turns making dinner. The group I was in covered Tuesday dinner—we made pizza featuring fresh produce from the farm and from the organic vegetable share we’d bought at the start of the week from a co-op! Pictures are included below—needless to say they were delicious! For more information about ASBs–click here! 

Beet and fennel on one half, cheese on the other

Mango curry pizza

Dessert pizza!

And, last but not least–a picture of our group with the founder of the Last Organic Outpost–Joe Icet! A shout-out to a most incredible team!!

Group picture at the Outpost!

 

Rice Night at the Ballet!

Being in a big city like Houston has its perks; there’s always so much to do—spending a day in café with a friend over a cup of coffee, going to a concert at House of Blues, exploring the extensive food scene, wandering through the museums…the list goes on. Being at Rice makes enjoying all Houston has to offer that much easier, from free transportation on the Metro, discounts with the Hedgehopper program, to free admission at some museums and the zoo. On top of all that, Rice Program Council also provides free tickets to various events at the Wortham center—including operas, symphonies, and ballets. This most recent trip, I went with my friends to see the ballet performance for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was curious to see how the storyline could be conveyed without the use of words, and was thoroughly impressed by how well it was done. The costumes and stage sets were spectacular as well, second only to the dancing. The hours seemed to fly by, and all too soon the sound of applause resonated throughout the auditorium. Warmed by the happy ending, we made our way out the reception for Rice students following the show. The reception is always a hit with the students—rich desserts and friendly conversation await.  What better way to end the night than on a sweet note?

 

 

Saturday Salad Study Break

Somehow at the end of this semester, I found myself without any finals! So I decided to put my time to good use, and hosted one last event as this year’s food rep for my residential college. To foster an appreciation for whole foods, healthy eating, and cooking for oneself, I decided to host a salad-making/tasting event over finals period, when most people would be too busy to go out for dinner on a Saturday evening. To do so, I first applied for money–Jones has a JIBA fund of $1000 for Jonesians to apply for when they have an idea of how to use it! I was so excited to have gotten the support of my fellow Jonesians, who granted me $150 to make the event happen. I decided to do a kale, plum, pear and goat cheese salad, a crunchy chicken salad, a curried lentil salad, a mango avocado quinoa salad, a basil tomato mozzarella salad, as well as a mint, ginger and lime cantaloupe salad! The event turned out way better than I could have expected–a good number of people came to help out, and even more people came to try the salads. A number of people even asked me for the recipes, to which I happily obliged. Based on the positive reception, I hope to see this become an annual event!

Salads galore!

Fresh from the Farmers Market

gems from the Farmers Market

Lately, the weather’s been amazing here! That is, aside from the plague of pollen that’s settled over campus. In anticipation of spring recess and going home (I’m from the suburbs of Houston), I decided to pay a visit to the Rice Farmers Market. The market is out at the West Stadium Lot every Tuesday from 3:30 to 6:30 pm, rain or shine. Though it’s certainly not the biggest market there is, I would agree that the market has quite a bit to offer—from fresh bread, produce, eggs, meat and goat cheese, to prepared foods, Indian cuisine, sweets, soaps, gluten-free and vegan options, to even organic doggie treats! Better yet, visitors are welcome to pet the puppies up for adoption. (For a more comprehensive list, see here). BEST of all though, is that the farmers market accepts tetra points; on-campus students get 50 per semester with their meal plan! That day I had brought my wallet along, and made my purchases in cash. Given all the options, it was hard to choose what I wanted to buy, but I ultimately decided on a sturdy bunch of beets and a fresh batch of Greek goat cheese, which I figured would complement one another well in a salad. I left the farmers market happy with my purchases, enjoying walk back on the outer loop in the speckled afternoon sunshine. Today, I got to use some of the goat cheese in a crunchy red cabbage salad with a rosemary and honey yogurt dressing—Yum!

Red cabbage salad with rosemary honey yogurt dressing AND goat cheese crumbles

May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor

Every year, my residential college, Jones, has held Floor Olympics, a competition among the various floors (and even OC—off campus) consisting of standard events such as dodgeball, sand volleyball, talent show, etc. Ultimately, the winning floor earns a cash prize and the all-important bragging rights.

This year, one of the events took us all by surprise. Our socials committee came up with the idea to hold a Hunger Game! Each floor would have willing freshman sign up as tributes, while upperclassmen could sign up as mentors. Afterwards, a Reaping would take place, resulting in the selection of one girl and one guy freshman tribute as well as one mentor to represent each floor. These tributes are then dressed by their mentor a few days later for an interview with our very own rendition of Caesar Flickerman. Additionally, in the time leading up to the Games, each floor’s members can go to the coordinators to earn points towards gifts by answering related trivia, re-enacting scenes from the Hunger Games series, or even bribing with baked goods.

So far all of this has taken place, and today is the day of the actual Games! Looking over the rules, I was thoroughly impressed by how closely our version follows the Hunger Games of the series. Included are muttations and a cornucopia. The weapons consist of water guns, light sabers, and…TOMATOES?! I’m a bit concerned about the last one, given that the Games will commence within the walls of our college—it would be my luck to step out of my dorm, only to be pelted by nature’s grenade. Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing how it goes this afternoon. Go Second South!!!

Global Urban Lab!

It's a bird...It's a plane...It's Global Urban Lab!

Recently, posters like the one above have been cropping up around campus. What exactly is Global Urban Lab, you might ask? It certainly is not the type of lab that comes to mind when one mentions ‘chem lab,’ but is instead one of the many study abroad opportunities available to students here at Rice. Rather than fusing chemicals, Global Urban Lab (GUL) seeks to ‘fuse’ major cities across the world in order to shed light on and to address the challenges facing them today. GUL participants do so by performing investigative research in their city of choice (London, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, or Shanghai) on their theme of choice (healthcare, sports, transportation, immigration, or development).  Research aside, the programs also include internships and transferable social science credit.

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