Food Initiative

Nutrient-Dense Dorm RoomThe Nutrient-Dense Dorm Nourishing campus life.

Try this at homeReconnect with food Tips, recipes, and methods.

Explore our activityFollow the action News and videos.

Feed your mindFeed your mind Recommended media.

Learn by DoingLearn by Doing Programs and internships.

Meet our plantsMeet our plants Ethnobotanical research.

Campus GardenCampus Garden Grow our habitat.

Make a giftMake a gift Support our work.

In accordance with our mission and vision, we'll know we're making progress as we:

I. Create a movement

  1. Empower people to practice and share our skills, knowledge, and ethos.
  2. Promote the benefits of bioindividual eating and food variety.
  3. Build a culture that reinforces core values.
  4. Mobilize community to solve problems of food security.
  5. Position our approach as a model for communities around the world.

II. Revive the sacred and staple foods of indigenous peoples

  1. Collate ethnobotanical information important to our dietary future.
  2. Share our research to reach the largest audiences possible.
  3. Advocate appropriate food even when it leads in unfamiliar directions.
  4. Host an annual food summit with partner institutions.

III. Make the healthiest and most sustainable food the most affordable

  1. Create new ways to access food supporting social and ecological justice.
  2. Share the products of our work across economic barriers.
  3. Create policy solutions that win lasting economic and social support.
  4. Promote alternatives to harmful food products and production methods.
  5. Meet the needs of our community today.

IV. Champion zero waste ethics

  1. Work toward net-zero energy use and a carbon neutral footprint.
  2. Promote community composting and zero waste cooking education.
  3. Implement a procurement policy to lead toward self-sufficiency.
  4. Promote safe, durable goods in the home kitchen / food service industry.
  5. Work with local businesses and institutions to avoid food waste.

V. Research and promote ethical methods of food production

  1. Promote edible landscaping guided by permaculture design processes.
  2. Ignite ecotourism in the region celebrating food security.
  3. Become known for the diverse and influential nature of our work.

VI. Pioneer a powerful paradigm of food education

  1. Create a completely new culture of eating.
  2. Educate students poised to become the next generation of leaders.
  3. Create space within traditional institutions from which to reshape them.
  4. Address bioregional food security through education.
  5. Serve as an aspirational model for educational institutions.

Our Practices

We follow regenerative rhythms that nourish life processes. Our activities include fermentation, baking in our earth-fired oven, researching and using wild foods, sharing nutritional and culinary wellness expertise, and building soil to rejuvenate our efforts.

Our Impact

Interns with the Food Initiative develop our strategic plan to promote nourishing food for humans.

Program Leader: Analiese Bush

Living with a fast-food, ready-to-eat mentality, Americans have lost the fulfilling interactions with food on its journey from field to plate.

The necessity to reunite the consumer with the consumed is increasingly important as hectic lifestyles proliferate. To revolutionize our view of food, the Food Initiative aims to reveal the simplicity of home and community gardening using the Campus Garden at Washington College as a model to demonstrate the extent to which these practices can be taken.


A bonafide food forest will take root in the soils of the garden previously amended by biodiverse compost. Prominent signage will educate passersby about the plants, the gardening methods, and the permaculture principles at play. Monthly workshops will teach community members about gardening practices that can be adopted on an individual scale. Pocket gardens will emerge and create a campus better integrated with the food it is eating. Fragmented ecosystems will be rejoined by increased edible landscaping and habitat.

Long Term Goals

  • Make the garden a more centralized part of college campus
  • Spread gardening throughout campus in pop-up and pocket gardens
  • Transform the way that we think about the possession of food by creating accessible, public food sources
  • Dispel misconceptions about home-gardening, home-cooking, and composting
  • Give consumers the power to dictate what they will grow and subsequently eat; foster food independence
  • Contribute some of what is grown to Dining Services
  • Expand the potentials of the garden through experimenting at the River and Field Campus

First Steps

  • Evaluate what students, faculty, and staff want to see in the campus garden
  • Make a usable batch of aerated static pile compost to amend garden soils and build biodiversity
  • Augment the intake of the community compost bins
  • Improve aesthetics and accessibility of garden
  • Create signs and structured flow around the garden to better educate students, etc. about the benefits and uses of the plants and gardening methods

Impact Goals

  • Encourage healthy lifestyles and informed food choices
  • Make food access a matter of conscience and action
  • Promote scalable food production from homes to communities
  • Showcase and promote the ethical use of wild plants in a diverse diet
  • Promote edible landscaping guided by permaculture design process
  • Create a completely new culture of eating

Project Leader: Nicole Hatfield ’21

Creating more spaces on campus that embody the mission of the campus garden. 


Whether expanding the campus garden and hosting service days at the garden for clubs, or creating new spaces on campus that illustrate the permaculture design system, I would like the garden and Food Initiative to have an expressive presence on campus. I imagine other groups on campus getting involved in the garden and transforming the garden into a creative and collaborative space.

Long Term Goals

  • Create mini gardens or permaculture guilds on campus—specifically on the green
  • Capture graywater on campus
  • Complete an aesthetic and functional permaculture plan for the art house
  • Paint a mural on the cement compost bins in the garden
  • Paint a mural outside Toll Science Center
  • Grow a living wall on campus (vines, etc.)

First Steps

  • Brainstorm campus-wide service and art projects
  • Research the connection between environmental education and the humanities
  • Research how the Food Initiative mission connects to different areas of study
  • Sketch art ideas (and plan to use environmentally safe materials)

 Impact Goals

  • Build a culture that reinforces core values.
  • Promote edible landscaping guided by permaculture design processes.
  • Create an inclusive community that celebrates diversity and education.
  • Challenge the environmental movement and push for policy change
  • Make the Food Initiative mission accessible to everyone.
  • Find inspiration in nature.
  • Portray the environment in unconventional ways—subverting the expectation that nature must be romantic.
  • Create awareness about environmental injustice through art projects and research; to critique the modern environmental movement and analyze its drawbacks

Project Leader: Julia Portmann

 Impact Goals

  • Share the products of our work across economic barriers.
  • Work toward net-zero energy use and a carbon neutral footprint.
  • Implement a procurement policy to lead toward self-sufficiency.
  • Promote edible landscaping guided by permaculture design processes.
  • Address bioregional food security through education.

Humans eating a Western diet face the unique challenge of being both overweight and undernourished.

Not only do government-subsidized crops increase the affordability and convenience of nutrient-deficient, processed foods, but deteriorating soil health and increased agrochemical usage reduce the nutrition offered by fresh produce and whole foods. To address these issues, the we intend to demonstrate how communities can provide economical, convenient options for nutritious food through the creation of a community garden and associated educational programs.

Long-term Goals

  • Offer summer camps for local children to work in the garden and bring home fresh food
  • Host workshops on preserving food to enhance nutrition and seasonal access
  • Encourage community members to try gardening at home, even just a few plants
  • Develop a straightforward guide made freely available and provide start-up supplies
  • Partner with the community kitchen based out of the Methodist Church to serve healthy food and provide nutritious take-home items
  • Add a high tunnel greenhouse to increase year-round food production and access
  • Promote seed saving
  • Expand into the realm of aquaponics, aquaculture, and algae

First Steps

  • Identify a location for a community garden: easily accessible, sufficient room to grow
  • Obtain permission from the town to establish garden
  • Break ground on a small plot and construct a shed/produce stand
  • Begin outreach to local elementary and middle schools

Project Leader: Max Moore '22

Most food eaten in the Western diet is transported, assembled, and frozen in a system that not only reduces nutrients, but also contributes to pollution and climate change.

The Food Initiative intends to promote a paradigm of seasonal food production and consumption encapsulated in a food mandala, an educational tool that can inspire a cultural shift toward nutrient dense and healthy food.


The Food Initiative will create a food mandala for the Eastern Shore bioregion, drawing inspiration from Masanobu Fukuoka’s food mandala for Japan. Like Fukuoka’s, our mandala will be composed of sustainable, local and healthy food options that will optimize human and environmental health. The mandala will help us to identify niches in which ancient and unconventional foods might take important roles in a sustainable diet. We will use the mandala as the basis for creating recipes appropriate for the modern palate and advocating for diversified food production to address bioregional food security.

Long-term Goals

  • Transition the Eastern Shore’s agriculture to be more sustainable
  • Find ways to maximize the potential of invasive and underutilized species
  • Introduce the foods and recipes to the local community and WC campus
  • Transition Washington College’s dining offerings to be based on the mandala
  • Update and refine the mandala with continued research and feedback
  • Contribute positively to the health of the Eastern Shore and its residents

First Steps

  • Research regional prehistoric and historic cuisine and the ingredients and approaches used
  • Investigate the current challenges to food security across the Eastern Shore
  • Find the seasons of food staples representative of a complete human diet
  • Create the first version of the mandala

 Impact Goals

  • Empower people to practice and share our skills, knowledge, and ethos.
  • Promote the benefits of nutrient density, bioavailability, and food variety.
  • Conduct ethnographic research important to our dietary future.
  • Advocate appropriate food even when it leads in unfamiliar directions.
  • Create a completely new culture of eating.
  • Address bioregional food security through education.

Project Leader: Melissa DeFrancesco ’22

Human ignorance regarding our place in the natural world prevents us from living life to the fullest.

The earth offers us beautifully nutrient dense, bio-available fare, and we have willfully chosen the path of highly processed, dead food. It is what we accept as standard, what we teach our children. There is a distinct divide between our knowledge and what we should deeply understand about food and our environment. What I wish to accomplish can be summed up by the adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” While education is not by any means a panacea, knowledge is the first, most crucial step in affecting true change. My mission is to open the eyes of our community to possibilities that lie just beyond our doorstep, and communicate facts and skills that will nudge us in the right direction. In the battle to restore our relationship with the earth, I believe knowledge is one of the most powerful tools we could possibly equip ourselves with.


Channel campus resources into opportunities for community members to connect to their surroundings and reevaluate the role that food plays in their lives. Educate individuals of all ages in various food preparation techniques, buying healthy food on a budget, and implementing simple environmental practices into their daily lives. Redefine the relationships between people, food, and their environment.

Long-term Goals

  • Make nutrient-dense food the new normal
  • Foster strong relationships between locals and farmers
  • Improve quality of life for local and regional residents
  • Work with local schools to implement healthier lunch programs
  • Encourage children to adopt outdoor-oriented hobbies
  • Participate with Food Service Advisory Boards

First Steps

  • Implement an interactive skills booth at the Farmers’ Market to get the community excited
  • Host complimentary community workshops for all ages
  • Gauge interest in “Food Education” course
  • Collaborate with local scout troops on community cleanups

 Impact Goals

  • Promote healthy habits through educational workshops.
  • Improve the health of residents in Kent County.
  • Encourage the “Buy Local” movement.
  • Provide nutritional advice for families.
  • Prompt children to think about food differently.

Project Leader: Lanning Tyrrel ’22

Before our current era of premade building materials, ready-made houses, and prefabricated tools, when humans moved to a new area, we had to create all of our own shelter and tools and grow our own food.

The skills needed to “start from scratch” have slowly been lost to us as we grow more and more accustomed to having all the jobs required for our survival outsourced to other people. The Wild Foods Outpost reintroduces lost skills and helps people to better understand and appreciate what it takes to support each human by serving as a functioning homestead that creates context through hands-on learning, teaching, connection, and research.


Construct, over time, a model pioneering community on the River and Field Campus. This main outpost would have capacity for people to live on a permanent basis, and to have other rotating guests who could attend classes and view demonstrations. The outpost will be self-sufficient through food production by means of permaculture and animal husbandry, tool production by way of blacksmithing and casting iron, clothes production, basic boat building. Campus will grow to include permanent living facilities, kitchen spaces, food storage using a root cellar, a barn, a fully equipped smithy, classroom facilities, a smoke house and hide tanning facilities, boat/canoe building dock, and clothes making facilities. Through use of permaculture techniques, the campus will have a sustainable permanent food supply, with enough excess to sell to the community. Animals raised will include chickens, pigs, and goats, with the possibility of sheep and cattle depending on the availability of feed in the environment.

Long-term Goals

  • Full-time staff living on campus
  • Multi-day overnight workshops available
  • Village entirely self-sufficient
  • Training for students to start more outposts across the country
  • Provide community with sustainably grown and raised food

First steps

  • Establish basic shelters at RAFC
  • Begin mushroom cultivation
  • Begin training in wildcrafting and survival techniques
  • Observe plants present in environment and begin identifying what can be added to improve yield and improve soil health

 Impact Goals

  • Spread the ideas of permaculture.
  • Create a sustainable community built from materials gathered from the land.
  • Give people the knowledge and skills to create things by hand.

Project Leader: Alaina Perdon ’22

A food desert is defined as an area, especially one with low-income residents, that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

In 2010, nearly 30% of Kent county residents were living in a USDA-classified food desert, with the number projected to increase in the coming years. Residents lack a steady supply of nutritious food. A large percentage of this population includes school-age children. Children are crucial elements of the nutrition crisis, not only because they are especially at risk in terms of malnutrition related health complications; but also because, as is frequently stated, “children are the future” — any hope of change lies within the youth.


A small, student-tended garden will be planted in a public space or learning environment with interactive lessons presented on gardening, sustainability, and healthy eating. Students engaged will not only learn basic gardening practices, but also how to make healthy eating choices — information they can carry through life as well as bring back to their families.

Long-term Goals

  • Establish a garden club in which students may tend to a campus garden
  • Incorporate edible landscaping across school campus
  • Develop system in which students may bring harvested foods home
  • Explore indoor greenhouses/aquaponics to ensure year-round growth
  • Incorporate composting element to reduce waste

First Steps

  • Establish relationship with administrators and determine viable area on school campus or accessible public property
  • Give preliminary lesson to students in regards to purpose and benefits of campus garden

 Impact Goals

  • Help establish food security across economic barriers.
  • Promote healthy lifestyle choices through education.
  • Expand mission of Food Initiative to general public through youth.
  • Ensure project longevity through education.