Food is not nameless or faceless; rather, it is intimately linked to everyone involved in its production. The Community of a Plate project seeks to illuminate how local food and local eating forge connections between individuals and build community. Over the course of the next few months, we will be spending time in communities all over Minnesota, visiting farms, cafes, restaurants, coops, and individuals to learn about the social, environmental, and economic bonds created by local eating. To do this, we will be documenting a plate of food by tracing its origins from the farm to the table, meeting the people involved in producing the food along the way. We hope to illustrate how when you eat locally, you connect with other members of your community, even if it is not instantly recognizable. The restaurant owner who prepares the salad connects the farmer who grows the lettuce with the consumer who eats it. It is this symbiotic interaction that strengthens a community. In this project, we want to tell the story of the names and faces that create this community of a plate, and inspire others to build and strengthen their own local food communities.

The project is a creation of a Minnesota-based non-profit organization, Renewing the Countryside’s mission is to provide inspiration, ideas and assistance to individuals and communities who are exploring sustainable ways to strengthen their rural communities and foster creative economic vitality. Through a portfolio of projects – from an online database of inspiring case studies, to book projects, to a green travel initiative (www.greenroutes.org) – Renewing the Countryside provides practical assistance and networking opportunities for those working to improve rural America.

The Interns:

Meredith HartMeredith Hart

Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas
University: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Major: Architecture
Minors: Sustainability, Spanish
Graduation term: December 2009

  • Favorite foods: Grapes, all fruit, chocolate, cheese, caprese sandwiches, ice cream, peanut butter – I sound really healthy. I eat other, better things too.
  • Part of the project most excited about: Photographing and traveling Minnesota as my job, and of course the amazing food that will surely ensue
  • Favorite way to de-stress: Playing piano or guitar, running, cooking, playing squash!
  • Favorite book(s): 100 Years of Solitude, The History of Love, Trout Fishing in America, Walden
  • Countries traveled to or lived in: Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, France, Turkey, Greece, Netherlands, Spain
  • Collections: Fruit stickers- unfortunately this is not always local
  • Favorite college classes: Meaning and Use of Public Space, Architectural Photography, Human Evolution, Not AutoCAD

megan hinesMegan Hines

Hometown: St. Charles, Illinois
University: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Major: Environmental Science, Policy and Management
Minors: Communications Studies, Food Systems and the Environment, Sustainable Agriculture, and Sustainability Studies
Graduation term: May 2010

  • Favorite foods: spicy peanut noodles, guacamole, edamame, pad thai noodles and coffee ice cream
  • Part of the project most excited about: traveling around parts or Minnesota and Wisconsin that I’ve never been to before
  • Favorite way to de-stress: taking a long walk to epic instrumental music, an ice cold microbrew
  • Favorite book(s): You Get So Alone at Times, Charles Bukowski; Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Countries traveled to or lived in: France, Italy, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico
  • Collections: antique dishes
  • Favorite college classes: Sustainable Food Systems of Italy <3

headshot Emily Larson

Hometown: Northfield, Minnesota
University:  St. Olaf College
Major: Sociology/Anthropology
Graduation term: May 2010

  • Favorite foods: Strawberries in summertime, crepes with banana and nutella, corn on the cob, naan, chips and salsa
  • Part of the project most excited about: exploring Minnesota to find local food!
  • Favorite way to de-stress: walking in a forest or prairie, petting my dog, Buster, baking cookies or pies, listening to music loudly
  • Favorite book(s):  The God of Small Things, Harry Potter, Long Walk to Freedom, The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay
  • Countries traveled to or lived in:  South Africa, Costa Rica, England, France, Egypt, Switzerland, India, Thailand, Hong Kong/Mainland China, South Korea, Mexico, Canada.

Sarah MilnarSarah Milnar

Hometown: Mendota Heights, Minnesota
University: Marquette University
Major: Journalism
Minor: Spanish
Graduation term: May 2010

  • Favorite foods: Chocolate, strawberries, chocolate-covered strawberries, graham crackers, chocolate-covered graham crackers, tomatoes (best when not covered in chocolate), spinach pizza, Kashi products, and coffee (not exactly a food, but definitely a favorite)
  • Part of the project most excited about: Exploring new places (Disclaimer: I have a chronic problem with directions. But not to worry, I actively follow Google Maps on Twitter…)
  • Favorite way to de-stress: Yoga, tap-dancing loudly and obnoxiously in my garage
  • Favorite book(s): There Are No Children Here; Me Talk Pretty One Day; San Manuel Bueno, mártir; Cold Mountain
  • Countries traveled to or lived in: Lived in Spain, traveled to France, Italy, Portugal and Mexico
  • Collections: My 10-year-old self collected Tic-Tac boxes, but now I just collect postcards from exotic places
  • Favorite college classes: Spanish Paintings in the Prado, Online Journalism & Editing


The Community of a Plate project was made possible with the support of the McKnight Foundation, the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), U of M Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership –The Experiment in Rural Cooperation Campus Compact, and the U of M Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership.

The McKnight Foundation is a Minnesota-based family foundation seeking to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through supporting programs in Arts, Children and Families, Environment, International, Minnesota Initiative Foundations, Neuroscience Research, Region and Communities.

HECUA is an organization of 20 colleges and universities that works to build academic-community partnerships for social change.

The U of M Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership –The Experiment in Rural Cooperation Campus Compact. The Experiment in Rural Cooperation (ERC) works to foster active citizenship, achieve sustainable development (focusing on natural resources, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and regional food systems and sustainable tourism) and create a vital relationship between the citizens of the State and their land grant university.

U of M Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership was among the first Partnerships established in 1998 to serve citizens in an eight-county area of Central Minnesota.  Key economic sectors include manufacturing, construction, agriculture, recreation and tourism.


One response

14 08 2009
Jeanette Kappers

Wow, what a great websight, nice job, keep up the great work

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