Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Journey Form & the Encounter

Appleton, Wisconsin Food Desert Map as depicted on
When we heard that the USDA identified a neighborhood near our campus as a Food Desert, we designed a "journey form" project to check into it as we read Nicolas Bourriaud's 1998 book, Relational Aesthetics. The USDA website revealed their mission to identify and help urban or rural areas without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food define a food desert. In these zones, fast food restaurants and convenience stores provide the only food option, which ultimately contribute to a poor diet leading to higher levels of obesity and diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. We gave five students (Maria Ayala, Rachele Krivichi, Jessica Meismer, Sara Sheldon-Rosson, Paul Smirl) a crisp $10 and asked them to use it to purchase the healthiest food they could find on foot within the Appleton food desert. The students documented their journey and encounters with photographs and videos then gave the food they bought away or shared it with friends and strangers.
$33.29 from Blurb
Together we compiled a book titled One Hour and Ten Bucks in a Food Desert available online from Students also posted 30-second experimental videos on YouTube. Mari Aylala's "Oh, Melet!", "Rachele Krivichi's "Division to Badger Street", Jessica Meismer's "$10 in a Food Desert", Sara Sheldon-Rosson's "Dinner in the Desert" and Paul Smirl's "Food Desert Shopping" communicate five perspectives on their individual experience in the food desert one mild day in January. Mari gleefully tripped upon a gourmet food market with mostly organic ingredients to make an omelet. Rachele heard a retail associate say, "We don't really have anything healthy here" yet found dates, Mango juice, and a banana among the hallucinogenic food posters that pulsated along her path. Jessica found a peanut butter granola pita sandwich, a banana, fruit smoothie, and a salad and got change back for her $10. Sara ended up at a convenience store that charged sales tax on items that normally wouldn't be taxed at a grocery store perhaps because they fall in the gray-area of "prepared food." Still, it's tough to consider canned Green Giant cut green beans and Del Monte sliced peaches prepared. Paul found his path strewn with Americana kitsch and trash but ended up with a loaf of wheat bread and noodles from an Asian food store. A feast, perhaps, for some.

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