Soup, salads and speakers: Log Lunch draws a crowd

“They’re the best meals I have all week,” said Allison Jacobs ’00, referring to the Log Lunches offered by The Center for Environment Studies (CES) every Friday at noon at the Log. Her reaction is not unique. Log Lunch continues to gain popularity among students, and most weeks the lunch is filled to capacity.

A tradition since 1972, Log Lunches were created in conjunction with a similar meal option called Bronfman bag lunches. The Log Lunches were held in the Van Rensselaer house where Sawyer library now stands. But in 1979 they were moved to the Log where they continue to be held today.

Log Lunches run on a weekly basis from September through May. A delicious meal, prepared by students, is served in conjunction with a speaker addressing various environmental issues.

These lunches draw a steady crowd of interested students. The Log Lunches hold a maximum of 100 people. There are 72 students who have permanent reservations and who come on a regular basis throughout the semester. There are also students who come for specific talks who sign up the week of the talk.

Normally there are 90-100 people signed up by the deadline on Thursday afternoon. The cost to students is $2.50 per lunch or $22.50 for the semester. “The cost was calculated several years ago, and simply hasn’t gone up, though our expenses have to some extent,” said Solomon.

The lunches are funded by CES which helps to cover expenses such as food, cooks and cleaners. Josh Solomon, program assistant for CES, is in charge of organizing the speakers and the financial support of the lunches. “We like being able to offer good food and community at a low price to students,” Solomon said.

This year the student coordinators of the lunches are Aya Reiss ’00 and Denise Ramzy ’00. “We plan the menus, buy the food, hire the workers and make sure that at 12:00 the food is ready,” Reiss said.

Some of the food is provided by the forest garden, a student-run garden beside CES. The rest of the food is bought from local farms and stores such as Caretaker farm, Peace Valley, and Wild Oats.

The quality of the food is a big draw for most students. “The food is generally very good, with the kind of home-cooked love that you tend to lose in the dining halls,” Taylor Schildgen ’00 said.

The food appeals to many different types of people. “We try to cater to a wide range of preferences from spicy food lovers to mushroom lovers,” Reiss said.

“I go to the log lunches mostly because of the food,” Irena Hollowell ’02 said. “It’s organic which I love, and it’s more dependable in terms of health-related issues.” The good food is just one aspect of the lunches.

Among the speakers are all the students who receive CES funding for summer internships, research or creative projects. There are approximately 20 CES summer interns who speak on their experiences each year.

Other speakers include professors interested in speaking about their research, alumni involved in the environmental field, and outside speakers recommended by students and faculty.

“It’s pretty open ended. We don’t have an overall strategy for Log Lunch talks for a year,” said Solomon. “We just react to the opportunities that come up.”

The speakers talk about a wide variety of topics all relating to environmental studies including such things as ecology, urban development, population issues, agriculture, climate control policy and so forth.

“Environmental studies is a broad, interdisciplinary field and we try to accentuate that in everything the Center does, including the log lunches,” Solomon said.

Two speakers who were particularly interesting were Greg Watson from the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Al Hammond from World Resources Institute.

Watson spoke about urban revitalization and community rebuilding at a Log Lunch last spring. In early October, Hammond discussed his work in developing scenarios to explore where humans are headed with respect to the planet and a species.

Speakers only have approximately twenty-five minutes in which to engage the audience. “Striking the right balance between technical specificity and general application is really essential,” Solomon said.

There is a consistently large turnout of interested students, whether it is for the food, the atmosphere, or the speaker. “Students seem to really enjoy the lunches for the company, the food, and the interesting topics that are brought up,” Reiss said. “I think the Log has a really nice atmosphere and attracts an interesting group of people by the variety of the speakers.”

The lunches attract students who focuses of study span a wide variety of departments. “I go for the social interaction and food mainly; the speakers are an added benefit,” Jacobs said.

The atmosphere created by the diverse types of students helps to add to the Log Lunch environment.

“I’d like to think the Log caters to a wide range of students who are all interested in environmental studies” Reiss said. “I think that’s the best part about it, because there is really a very mixed group of students who come to the lunches.”

This atmosphere containing interesting speakers and topics, good food, and good company is what appeals to so many students.

“They’ve been popular for the last several years. I expect that trend will continue for the foreseeable future,” Solomon said.