Children of the corn: we are what we eat   
By Adam Strunk. Tue, Mar 29, 2011

If we are what we eat, then most Americans are made of corn.

This was one of the central messages of the documentary King Corn, which KU Environs screened Monday night at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. The documentary detailed ways corn is used and processed, the prevalence of corn in the American diet and the government subsidization of the corn industry.

“Even just watching that movie I think I learned a lot,” said Emily Katz, a sophomore from Overland Park. Katz was one of the 325 people who attended the movie screening. “Its crazy to think how much corn is in what you eat … I really think people should be more aware about this stuff and what they are putting in their body. ”

This was the kind of discussion KU Environs, a campus group that promotes awareness about environmental issues, hoped to prompt with the event.

“It introduces you to something you know so well, but in such a different way,” Kim Scherman, a junior from Eudora and KU Environs officer, said. “It is really amazing how much corn is in our lives. We are not trying to say anything bad or judge corn. We just want to promote discussion.”

Besides facilitating discussion, the event served as a fundraiser for Just Food, a local food bank that distributed food to more than 2,000 people in the Lawrence area last month. KU Environs asked for a $3 donation from movie-goers and promised to give 70 percent of the $1050 raised Monday night or $735 to Just Food.

The food pantry faced a large budget shortfall after the Stimulus payments, which provided the initial income to start the organization, expired in December.

According to Aaron Heckman chief operating officer for Eckan, the community action agency which oversees Just Food, the food bank had set a goal raising $100,000 in order to sustain services and keep the organization running.

With Just Food still needing to raise $43,000 to reach its goal, Just Food volunteer Terry Draskovich said the fundraiser was a welcome help.

“I am ecstatic,” Draskovich said. “I am so grateful. What else can I say? They called and asked if their fundraiser would help, and I said of course it would help.”

Movie goers Monday night not only had a chance to see a cheap movie and help out a food pantry, but to get a free burrito and win prizes donated by Lawrence businesses. Those attending the event received gift cards for free burritos from Chipotle. They could also enter a drawing to win prizes such as dinner for two at Free State Brewing Company, two $50 gift certificates to Tellers and four free yoga classes from Southwind Health Collective.

The other 30 percent of the money raised by the event went to Films For Action, a community group that co-sponsored and promoted the event. The group screens documentaries and operates a website to promote awareness on environmental, social and political issues.

“Well it’s an amazing film and we are always looking to partner with other groups willing to do film screenings” said Tim Hjersted project director for Films for Action.

Hjersted said that the Films for Action website features around 700 documentaries, which visitors can view for free.

After the documentary finished, Curt Ellis, one of the documentary creators, addressed the crowd via Skype. The crowd had a chance to ask Ellis questions about the film.

“Becoming a policy advocate, that’s what we wanted people to think about after seeing our film, ‘what are the polices that drive people to grow more corn?’,” said Ellis when answering the question of what he wanted people to learn from the film. “Government subsidies are the kind of things we reward through our tax dollars and they have a big influence on what we eat in America and what we farm.”

— Edited by Dave Boyd