The University of Virginia on Tuesday inaugurated the Morven Food Lab in honor of the first lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, and her advocacy of projects that seek to eliminate childhood hunger, develop local agriculture and support access to nutritious food.
McAuliffe has engaged stakeholders across Virginia in seeking solutions to these food issues, and as a result, the Virginia General Assembly allocated $2.5 million over three years to help support school breakfast programs, such as the No Kid Hungry Campaign. Since then, there has been an annual increase of more than 6 million breakfasts served in Virginia schools.
The Morven Food Lab at Morven Farm will be both a physical space and an organizational structure that is set to bring together food-related initiatives across the University, including the UVA Food Collaborative, the University’s Sustainable Food Strategy Task Force, the Morven Summer Institute and the Morven Kitchen Garden.
According to Stewart Gamage, director of Morven programs at the UVA Foundation, “We hope this could be a good platform for everything from locally grown food and locally sourced food to working with local public schools on their food and sustainability projects and linking up with faculty who have projects all over the world about food sustainability – everything from famine to drought.”
Community-based organizations such as the Local Food Hub, City Schoolyard Garden and the Charlottesville Food Justice Network are also welcome to utilize the space in order to collaborate with University faculty, staff and students on issues regarding agricultural production, sustainability, child hunger and public health.
In regard to building the space, Gamage said, “We have the concept. A student project in the Architecture School looked at how we might transform this utilitarian space into something more usable for students. Next spring, we’re going to have a more refined proposal from students in the Architecture School. Before it was more aspirational; now we have the fundraising and will be putting this space to use.”
The announcements of the Morven Food Lab and its inauguration in honor of Dorothy McAuliffe were made at a lunch hosted by the University as a part of the Women’s Global Leadership Forum, part of UVA’s bicentennial celebrations. The two-day forum sought to bring women together from all over the world in order to discuss “The Role of Women in 21st-Century Democracy.” Both national and international speakers came to UVA, focusing on education and health, economic access and innovation and equality and political empowerment.