Local Food and Film Festival held at Hearst Center


On Saturday, March 7, the UNI Center for Energy and Environmental Education (CEEE) co-hosted the Local Food and Film Festival. The event was held in Hearst Center for the Arts and was free and open to the public.

Attendees of the Local Food and Film Festival had the opportunity to attend a gardening class, eat food by local vendors and view a screening of the film “Overload: America’s Toxic Love Story.” “Overload” is a documentary centered around a young woman named Soozie. Soozie discovers that American kids are born with synthetic toxins in their system. She then researches how this came about and what we can do to prevent exposure.

The food vendors at the Local Food and Film Festival included ARNKA Acres, Cedar Falls Food Co-op, Cedar Falls Seed Library, Cedar Valley Farmers Markets, Deep Root Acres, Evansdale Farmers Market, FoodCorps, Garden Circle, Golden Valley Farm, Hahn Farm, Milk Box Bakery, Solstice Farm, UNI Local Food Program, WE Arose Gardens, Waterloo Urban Farmers Market and Yellow Table.

Among the non-food groups tabling at the Local Food and Film Festival was the Panther Initiative for Environmental Equity and Resilience (PIEER). According to their website, PIEER’s overall goal is “to increase awareness about issues between rural and urban Iowans that will encourage engaged populations to consider positive changes.” At the Local Food and Film Festival, PIEER undergraduate and graduate students handed out safe, chemical-free samples to visitors.

PIEER graduate student coordinator Deanna Williams said that the Local Food and Film Festival was important to their organization because “One of our big topics that we discuss is toxic exposures. So, we’ve just been educating people about all of the different toxins that are found in a lot of the products we use on a daily basis, like toothpaste, shampoos, lotions, conditioners and things like that.”

The CEEE, according to their website, offers “technical assistance, educational programs, and leadership in energy conservation and renewable energy, environmental conservation and community-based agriculture.” Good Neighbor is an organization centered within CEEE that focuses on community education about the harmful effects of pesticides.

Leah Boyle, a junior studying Environmental Science and Biology and student fellow at Good Neighbor Iowa, explained the importance of the Local Food and Film Festival.

“This whole event is just about local food and how it’s created,” Boyle said. According to Good Neighbor’s website, pesticides have been associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain and kidney cancers. The website states, “You can demonstrate to your community that creating healthy lawns without herbicides is practical, saves money, protects children, provides pollinator habitat, and protects Iowa’s streams.”

Through this event, CEEE and Good Neighbor hoped to promote local vendors, due to their dedication to pesticide-free farming.

“A lot of these farmers are organic farmers and they don’t use pesticides,” Boyle said.

To learn more about Good Neighbor, visit their webpage at https://goodneighboriowa.org/. Information on the Center for Energy and Environmental Education can be found at https://ceee.uni.edu/. For more information about PIEER, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PIEERUNI.