College receives grant for food lab
CHESTERTOWN — For the second year in a row, Washington College has been awarded a grant from the Maryland Department of Commerce as part of its Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative, a program designed to spur basic and applied research in scientific and technical fields.
Coupled with gifts of $1 million from donors, the MEI grant of $944,000 will support an endowed chair in sustainable food systems for the college’s new Eastern Shore Food Lab.
The MEI grant was made possible by a pledge of $1 million from Daryl Swanstrom, a member of the college’s board of visitors and governors, with transitional funding by board members Edward P. Nordberg, Ann Horner and Patrick W. Allender, who helped meet the immediate grant requirements.
“Problem-solving and analytical skills are the heart of the liberal arts education. When our students bring those skills to bear on innovative opportunities like the Eastern Shore Food Lab, creative solutions to complex problems are the result,” college President Sheila Bair said in a news release announcing the grant, adding that it will help Washington College propel new thinking and action toward creating more sustainable food systems on the Shore and well beyond.
The Eastern Shore Food Lab will be an interdisciplinary laboratory dedicated to studying and experimenting with sustainable food systems, using Shore cuisine as its primary context. By studying the resources unique to the region, based on weather, climate, soil chemistry, microbial biology and fusing historical foods with modern technologies, faculty, students and collaborative researchers will re-envision our food system.
The lab will address issues of food, diet, health, access, sustainability and human and environmental relationships through innovative teaching and learning, cutting edge research and meaningful food production. Although the lab’s work will spring from the local, the solutions it envisions will be scalable to other food cultures around the country and the world.
Funded through the MEI grant, the first chairman of the food lab will be Bill Schindler, chairman of the Department of Anthropology. A behavioral science expert in primitive technologies, food production, dietary health and cultural meanings of food, Schindler is interested in how the food lab can work to change modern western perceptions of food.
Created by the General Assembly in 2014, the MEI program aims to spur basic and applied research in scientific and technical fields at the state’s colleges and universities.
In 2016, Washington College received an MEI grant of $1 million to create an endowed position at the Center for Environment & Society, the chief of entrepreneurial science.
Bill Schindler, shown here teaching students about foraging for foods from trees and plants that grow on campus and nearby, is to be the first chairman of the EasternShore Food Lab at Washington College.