Volume 97 Issue 3 News

PAX-O’s FEAST brings students and Huntingdon community together

by Klaus-Peter Profus

Presented by Juniata’s Peace Studies Club (PAX-O), the first FEAST took place on Friday, Oct. 23 at Stone Church of the Brethren. Designed as a monthly event with local music and food, Juniata students and Huntingdon community members can come together and discuss communal themes.

“FEAST is an acronym that stands for food, expression, art, song, and thought, and it is basically a community dinner that incorporates all of those elements into it,” said Hannah Jeffery, senior student in peace and conflict studies.

Referring to the corporate ideas behind FEAST, Huntingdon resident and local farmer, Nick Miller said, “People from various parts of the community can come together and enjoy a locally produced meal, locally produced music and find some common grounds.”

Jeffery brought the idea for FEAST back from her year abroad. “Fall semester last year I studied in Newcastle, Australia and they had a club called FEAST where they did fun events that were just about enjoying life. Then I went to Marburg, Germany, where they had ‘Volksküche,’ which is basically a community dinner. So I am combining these two ideas to create this community dinner and the ultimate goal of it is to bring the community together and have a space where we can talk about important things,” said Jeffery.

“FEAST is a coming together of community members, Juniata College members and anyone that would enjoy being together as a community to share any of our interest that would bind us together in a rich feast of conversation, food, and community,” said Christy Dowdy, pastor at Stone Church of the Brethren.

Addressing the geographical distance between Juniata College and the Huntingdon community, senior Ramsey Amad said, “There is no doubt in my mind that there is a visible divide between the two communities that is very rarely bridged. Most events are exclusively for students and the ones that are not, Huntingdon community members do not come to. It is very difficult because students just have to walk over here whereas town people have to plan a bit more.”

Sophomore Julia McMurry said, “I know that when I first came here people would say that the relationship between the College and the Huntingdon community is tense and I think that is definitely still true. I think that there is some misunderstanding and some distance.”

“Having grown up in Huntingdon, I feel like Juniata College definitely has a bit of a bubble. We are up on the hill here, and there are no shops and no cause for community members to come up here except maybe in the summer during the concert series or some of the events at Oller Hall,” said Miller.

Despite the physical distance, there are intentions to bring the two communities closer together. Dowdy said, “Unfortunately, people sometimes feel divisions that are perhaps not even real. What we can work at is bringing people around the same table because there is richness in both communities. I know especially that the College does not want to be separate and I do not think the community wants to be separate either, but we have challenging ways of finding common connections.”

Jeffery said that conversations during dinner are good ways to encourage mutual understanding, “We are going to have a theme for each FEAST and the first FEAST theme is ‘community’; what it means to be a community, how we can improve our relationship and make our community more cohesive. It is just a first step in this process of community building. In the future I envision it manifold, it could be a documentary screening followed by a discussion, it could be a professor or a student or even a community member talking about something that they are passionate about.”

Referring to her own experiences with various events, Dowdy said, “I think something like this always takes a lot of encouragement and continued doing it over and over because sometimes you have to get it going and it takes several times before the idea catches on. It is going to take several times to have it really be a full FEAST. I know that students will have to be very enthusiastic about this possibility.”

“It will be good to have a good student base of people who are fascinated by this idea because then we can branch out to the community, which is an awesome thing. Basically, it is a huge effort, and I have so many people to thank because it is impossible to do this by yourself. Students can volunteer to help cook, help clean up, help set up,” Jeffery said.

“I think events like FEAST are perfect for improving our relationship, particularly if the folks organizing these events reach out personally to make an effort to have a diverse group of people meeting together,” said Pam Gruger, Huntingdon resident and Stone Church member.

“FEAST is a raising of awareness of the richness and the diversity of our community, which includes both town people as well as College folks. I feel like that is a challenging coming together of people and I am hopeful that this really could make a difference if people that are not directly involved in college life, would feel welcome to come to the table and participate,” said Dowdy.

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