Pies for People Returns to Sterling College | Bite Club

Pies for People Returns to Sterling College


  • Beana Bern for Sterling College
  • Pies for People
Over coffee at the Swift House Inn in Middlebury recently, noted food activist and writer  Frances Moore Lappé made a comment about Vermont:

“What turns me on to Vermont is not just the beauty but something about the culture,” she said. “There’s an expectation of mutual connectedness here … there is a sense that we’re creating a shared ‘Vermont experience.’”

Lappé is not exactly an outside observer — she lived in Brattleboro for half a decade during the mid-’90s, and her stepmother is a fifth-generation Vermonter. But 16 years after relocating to Boston, where she and her daughter cofounded the Small Planet Institute in Cambridge, Lappé said Vermont’s inherent sense of communal accountability became especially visible. It’s why farm stands and maple shacks can operate under “the honor system,” for instance.

And it’s why, this month, Sterling College will helm an event called Pies for People, which turns excess food — both donated and destined for compost heaps — into seasonal pies for locals in need during the holiday season.

Lappé has written 18 books on food sustainability and agriculture, including two groundbreaking tomes that bookend her 45-year legacy: Diet for A Small Planet and World Hunger: Ten Myths. The basis of her work was highlighted in this week’s Seven Days, but, in a nutshell, the root of her beliefs is twofold. One, in Lappé’s words: “Hunger is an issue of democracy, not scarcity." And two, democracy is substantiated on the way it’s lived every day; it’s not something given, but something performed in action.

“That atmosphere of connectedness and co-responsibility is reflected in the food culture [in Vermont],” she continues. “The more Vermont can embody and communicate that sense of mutual accountability, the more influence it’ll have as a role model for the rest of the country.”

Pies for People helps to prove Lappé's point — that many Vermonters understand their everyday actions as having a communal impact. The grassroots event, facilitated by Sterling College, works in conjunction with local partners High Mowing Organic Seeds, the Center for an Agricultural Economy and the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. Ingredients donated from Pete’s Greens, Black Dirt Farm and Stillmeadow Gardens pair with surplus food from Sterling’s kitchen to make pies for holiday tables that might not otherwise have them.

The excess squash purée destined for the compost heap instead gets folded into a homemade pie crust and delivered across the in-need community. So, that stuff that didn’t exist before as “food” gets a second chance: an opportunity to quell stomach pangs that result from both physical hunger and the emotional effects of feeling deprived.
  • Beana Bern for Sterling College
  • Pies for People
“We’ve been doing Pies for People every year since 2008,” says Christian Feuerstein, Sterling’s communications director. “The event is open to the public — at least for crust-making."

On Thursday, November 17, Pies for People volunteers will meet at Sterling College’s Dunbar Hall to roll up their sleeves and roll out some dough. Those lending a hand can join the Sterling College community for a 6 p.m. dinner before hitting the flour. (Interested participants should email Allison Van Akkeren, a member of the Sustainable Food Systems faculty, at [email protected].)

And remember, says Feuerstein, Pies for People is BYOP — bring your own (rolling) pin.

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