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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Molly Schintler talks real food

Schintler takes on the new Real Foods Coordinator position. Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.
Schintler takes on the new Real Foods Coordinator position. Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.
Schintler takes on the new Real Foods Coordinator position. Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.

Many groups on campus work towards improving Grinnell’s food system. For a long time, however, their battle has seemed impossible. Little administrative support has meant that students can only accomplish so much despite their best efforts. That all changed this summer when Molly Schintler was hired as the College’s first Real Foods Coordinator. This week, The S&B’s News Editor Michael Cummings ’18 sat down with Schintler to discuss her new position and her goals for the College.

The Scarlet and Black: Your official title is Real Foods Coordinator. What exactly does that mean?

Molly Schintler: “Real roods” are foods that nourish the planet and all people. As a Real Foods Coordinator, I am here to bring more foods … that nourish all people and the planet to campus, specifically the Dining Hall but also Bob’s, the Spencer Grill, Catering, and then [to] educate … and bring people together around these foods. Beyond campus, also connecting to the community. The food system that we’re a part of here at Grinnell on campus is part of a much bigger national, really global, food system. … There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the Grinnell community and the wider state of Iowa and regional food system.

S&B: What have you’ve done in your life that led to you taking on this role?

MS: I graduated from the University of Iowa. … I studied theatre and international studies and really nothing to do with food systems. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Nothing overtly to do with food systems. But my studies did center around focusing on systems of oppression, so class, race and gender being three of the main ones, and the thing about the food system is we all eat, so if you’re wanting to change unjust, inequitable systems, a great way to do that is to find common ground, and I think food’s that common ground. So after college I worked at a farm-to-table restaurant in New York City. … I farmed for a couple of years after that at Stone Barn Center outside of New York City, and then came back here to Iowa. I knew that farming wasn’t forever for me, it just doesn’t play to my strengths, but I wanted to stay working in food systems, and I specifically wanted to address some of the real reasons why I was drawn to working in food systems, which was acknowledging the role that race and class and geography play in the food that we have access to. So I served for two years with Food Corps, which is an AmeriCorps program. In short, they bring the farm to the school by connecting kids to real food and helping them grow healthy.

S&B: You are the first person to hold the position of Real Foods Coordinator here at Grinnell. Can you tell me about why the College decided to establish this position?

MS: It’s my understanding that students and staff really started to recognize that … food is political. Different people were feeling passionately about the food system here at Grinnell for differing reasons. And through the Real Foods Challenge, which is a national movement for college campuses to commit to 20 percent real food by 2020 … students organized themselves and went all the way to the President’s office, and they were really pushing for Grinnell College to sign on and commit to 20 percent real food by 2020. The College has yet to sign on to the Real Foods Challenge goal, but they did create the Real Food Coordinator position, and it is certainly my goal that we can achieve 20 percent real food by 2020.

S&B: What has your experience on the job at Grinnell been like so far, where have you seen success and what has been challenging?

MS: I’m a firm believer that in all you do, you stand on the shoulders of the people who come before you, and stepping into this role at Grinnell has been a very positive experience for me … I felt a lot of support from Dining Services already. Starting next Monday — oh, this is exciting — all of the tofu in the dining hall, so approximately 6,200 pounds of tofu a year, will be shifted from a producer that was sending us their product from — actually I don’t know where. Far away. I didn’t know the producer; I wasn’t really familiar with the source of their soy beans. But we’re shifting to Old Capitol Food Company. They’re based in Iowa City, and they’ve been around for about a little over a year. Even though their product will be slightly more expensive for the Dining Hall, they’re willing to absorb that cost because they know they really are showing that they stand behind the types of foods that my position is trying to promote.

S&B: Looking to the future, what do you hope to have accomplished one year from now?

MS: Clearly Grinnell College does things very well. I’m a big proponent of doing well, but then always doing better, and going beyond doing good by making things fair and making them just, not just good. I hope within a year that we’ve made significant progress toward creating a more just… food system here at Grinnell, and also within the community.

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