Local award-winning film explores better use of land and hunger issues in DeKalb County


Panelists (from left to right) Undergraduate Program Director Laura Vazquez and panelists involved in the making of her film answer questions following its screening Sunday at the DeKalb Public Library.

By Taher Zeitoun

DeKALB — The DeKalb Public Library hosted Laura Vazquez, NIU undergraduate program director, for the DeKalb debut of her documentary film “Think Globally, Eat Locally.”

The film is a research-driven look into how to use the surrounding land more efficiently, as well as strengthen the community through volunteer work geared toward alleviating hunger. The film was shot in DeKalb county and has won several awards including the official selection at the Geneva and Illinois International Film Festival, according the NIU events calendar.

Vazquez said a lot of the inspiration behind the film was to spread knowledge pertaining to the benefits of consuming local foods. She said helping people grow their own food and providing food to those in need played key factors in the making of the film.

“The DeKalb County Community Gardens puts a lot of effort in raising locally grown food and distributing it to those in need,” Vazquez said.

Dan Kenney, executive director of the DeKalb County Community Gardens, said they have provided 350,000 pounds of produce for local food pantries, schools, community meal sites and Meals-On-Wheels. He also said people do not realize how many children go hungry within the district’s school.

“Many schools in our community have one in two children going hungry, and this film helps bring this unrecognized problem to light,” Kenney said.

Kenney said he has many types of people performing volunteer work on his farm to gain an understanding of the process of farming locally-grown food.

Pediatric registered nurse Lisa Cumings works with NIU to bring health and wellness programs to public school classrooms. She said working with the DeKalb County Community Gardens allows her to form an important coalition that focuses on community wellness.

“Working together with the [DeKalb County Community Gardens] is very important because my passion regarding healthy living is matched by the passion of the Community Gardens’ goal to decrease hunger using local farmland,” Cumings said.

Vazquez said she worked with Kenney to bring many farmers and their family-run farms to light within the film’s message. She said allowing the community to see these individuals working hard to better the environment by doing something they love is an important part of the film.

Kenney said Vazquez did an amazing job of highlighting the various food pantries in DeKalb and Sycamore, and the message she conveyed was spot-on.

“I was so grateful to be a part of this eye-opening film, and watching it even brought me to tears,” Kenney said.

Denise Curran, homeless-liaison for the Regional Office of Education in DeKalb, said the message the film delivers plays a crucial role in developing a better understanding of the homeless situation facing schools within the districts.

Curran said she focuses the majority of her efforts on making sure school children have a place to live and are offered an education. She said 259 students between pre-school and 12th grade were reported homeless as of this year, and working with local food pantries by volunteering can deliver help the community needs.

“A lot of people don’t realize how big the homeless problem facing children is, and the film sets a good example of how people can help,” Curran said.

Veronica Pulvi, senior public health major, said the film was eye-opening because she was not aware eating locally can provide a plethora of benefits that ultimately better the community and environment.

She also said students may not take the time to learn about issues involving their community due to busy schedules, and films like “Think Globally Eat Locally” can help.

“I know I am busy most of the week and am grateful to be able to watch this film and gain a  better understanding of the community I live in,” Pulvi said.