Story and Photos by Shareea Butler
A full sensory experience permeated Paul Quinn College last Thursday. The smell of earth and mulch, the sound of live jazz and the taste of freshly prepared gourmet food greeted guests during the “A Community Cooks” event held on campus. A touch of warm springtime sun made the outdoor event at Paul Quinn’s Food For Good Farm the place to be in Southern Dallas.
Thursday evening’s event brought gourmet chefs, healthy food advocates, and more than 200 guests from across North Texas to the campus of Paul Quinn. A day earlier Paul Quinn announced that the school is now a fully accredited member of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, so it was also a celebration of sorts.
Speakers included the event host Trammell S. Crow, a local philanthropist who donated a million dollars to Paul Quinn College in 2010. Paul Quinn’s president, Michael Sorrell, credited Mr. Crow with “planting the seed” for the establishment of a community garden on campus. Bob Weiss, Paul Quinn’s Board Chairman and Vice President for Administration at the Meadows Foundation also shared remarks.
Although the farm has replaced Paul Quinn’s football field, the goalposts, stadium lights, and bleachers remain as a reminder of the history of the site. You could look across the seemingly barren field and imagine the seeds slowly stretching their roots deep into the rich soil. Once harvest season arrives, Paul Quinn and its supporters will once again reap the fruit (and vegetables) of their labor.
Event guests included representatives from PepsiCo, which partnered with Paul Quinn to establish the Food for Good Farm, and representatives from several local restaurants that buy produce from Paul Quinn College, such as Craft Dallas and Bolsa. Dallas Social Ventures Partners, a local organization that supports the development of local non-profits were also in attendance.
Chefs in attendance included Graham Dodds (Bolsa), Jullian Barsotti (Nonna), Janice Provost (Parigi), Jeff Harris (Red Fork), Kelly Hightower (Nova), Tim Bevins (Craft), Randall Copeland (AVA), Orazio Lamanna (Dallas Cowboys) and Kate Nelson (PieCurious).
Each chef setup a tasting station in designated areas of the farm so attendees could sample an entrée. Fish skewers, steak tacos and miniature strawberry pies were just a few of the available selections. The event also included live music performed by the Bishop Arts Jazz Allstars.
The keynote speaker, Will Allen, chief executive officer of Growing Power, used the event as an opportunity to discuss the broader issue of limited access to quality healthy food in low-income communities across the United States. He explained that America’s food system is broken because it has evolved into industrialized processes that require produce to travel hundreds of miles—losing much of its nutritional value during the process.
In addition to increased production, many farmers use chemicals and pesticides that may harm receivers of the food. Mr. Sorrell, added that some communities do not even have immediate access to produce at all, for instance the nearest grocery store to Paul Quinn College is located six miles from the campus.
In keeping with the college’s mission to create servant leaders, Paul Quinn College took action to address the serious problem of food inequity that plagued its local community by using available resources to establish the farm. Under the leadership of Elizabeth Wattley, Paul Quinn’s Service Leadership Coordinator, “the farm has produced over 2,200 pounds of fresh organic produce within just two growing seasons.” Thanks to the support of “A Community Cooks” we can look forward to more food for good in the years to come.
Shareea Butler is a non-profit consultant who specializes in the creation and implementation of systems and processes to increase impact and efficiency. She has a passion for issues that relate to the empowerment of underserved populations, such as education, financial literacy, and advocacy. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org