In her office, Julie Shaffer has a life-size cardboard cut-out of a farmer, a Georgia map that shows which Georgia farms provide what produce to Emory, and wooden cooking utensils on her desk. Her colorful office is filled with all sorts of stuff; it not only reflects Julie’s colorful personality, but her array of responsibilities as well.
Since August 2008, Julie has been the Sustainable Food Service Education Coordinator at Emory. Before that, she worked at a public high school for 30 years teaching AP art in drawing, painting, and design. So how did she get from teaching art to teaching about sustainable food? “I’ve always had an interest in food and cooking and growing food,” Julie explains, “I’ve always liked to eat.” However, it was more than her love of food; it was her love of Slow Food.
Slow Food, which has grown into a worldwide network of volunteers, began in Italy in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonalds near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Slow Food Emory’s Rachel Levine explains, “Slow Food is stopping to think about the broader picture of the food we eat with an appreciation for what we put into our bodies and our surrounding community. Simply put, Slow Food is ‘good, clean, and fair food,’”
Julie first heard about Slow Food while vacationing in Italy in 1999. When she returned home, she called the newly established U.S. chapter to find out about getting involved. When the phone call ended, she had agreed to start a Slow Food chapter in Atlanta. She did, and now Julie is the volunteer regional governor of Southeast Slow Food. “Julie has been a major contributor to the Slow Food movement in Atlanta and the entire southeast. She knows just about everyone there is to know when it comes to food in Atlanta,” explains Green Bean President Emily Cumbie-Drake.
Through her experience/ her time spent working as a volunteer leader of Slow Food Atlanta, her teaching experience, and her experience as a networker in the sustainable food realm, Julie was the perfect choice for the position of Sustainable Food Service Education Coordinator at Emory. “My volunteer work turned into a full paying job,” she explains, “All my experiences came together.”
So, what does Julie do as the Sustainable Food Service Education Coordinator? Well, her title is long for a reason. Julie supervises and oversees the Farmer’s Market (outside Cox every Tuesday afternoon) and she creates special dining events to showcase local farmer products and special heirloom breed heritage animals and vegetables. Julie is the staff sponsor for the Slow Food Emory group, the Culinary Club, and the Emory Dining Green Team. She is also in charge of creating hands-on cooking programs in the demonstration kitchen in Few Hall and she teaches evening classes at Emory to the broader communities.
In the Emory community, Julie has found student support to be quality over quantity. “The students that are interested and supportive are very passionate about it,” she explains, “Is it mainstream on this campus? No.” Still, Julie says that the most rewarding aspect of her job is “working with students and seeing students get really excited and motivated about sustainable food issues.”
One such student is Emory Dining Green Team member Anish Shah. He says, “Julie’s always reaching out to help empower students to continue making the right, and green, decisions. She’s been working with students to help us change how we look at waste.” Together, Julie and Anish were able to work with Emory Dining/Sodexo to institute an optional Trayless Tuesdays at the DUC, in which students forgo using a tray in order to reduce Emory’s carbon footprint, food waste, and water use.
Currently, Emory’s sustainable food initiative is to have 75% of the foods served at Emory sustainable or locally produced by 2015. Julie has a more specific vision in mind, “For me as the educator, my hope would be to educate a generation of youth about sustainable food, why it’s important, and why it’s important here at Emory. My hope would be that Emory students will go out into the world and make positive changes in this direction.”
So what can you do? Julie puts it simply: eat consciously. “Choose your foods consciously and don’t think that you have to be a purist or uncaring, if everyone went Trayless on Tuesdays that would make a huge difference. Every small thing you do has a positive impact. It’s a matter of changing habits.” Thanks to Julie, the Emory community is changing its habits for the better.
-Jenna Shweitzer ’11
Filed under: Spring 2009-Issue 4 Articles