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What's on your plate? The Missouri Botanical Garden wants to know

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2013 - What’s on your plate?

Some t-rav? Gluten-free almond spice pudding? Fried Oreos?

Over the next few months, the Missouri Botanical Garden will collect the stories of what’s on those plates from submitted videos, photos and essays as part of their year-long program, Foodology

This is also a totally new way of doing things for the Garden, says Sheila Voss, vice president of education. 

“It really is the very first crowd-sourced or public-sourced initiative,” she says, reflecting a growing trend among museums, zoos and scientific institutions known as museum 2.0.

The premise is, essentially, that these places want to have more circular relationships with their patrons and be places that people come and, in addition to all the other things they’ll see, also see themselves.

The Garden has no limits on what they’re asking for. Maybe it’s college students sharing how they stretch $20 a month, or people who grow their own food, or people who don’t have access to fresh produce and have to make their choices at the corner gas station. It may be serious or light-hearted. The Garden wants them all. 

At the root of the project is the real root of all food, plant life, Voss says, but the Garden’s not making the calls on how the stories collected will be told. Instead, they’re tapping into a community panel made up of farmers, parents, restaurant owners, teachers and scientists to help curate the stories of what St. Louis Eats.

The deadline for submissions is May 4, and there are lots of ways to submit, from the Garden’s Twitter account to their Flickr group, through Instagram (post with attn: @mobotgarden and tag it with #stleats) or e-mail. 

Some of the stories and photos will make it onto the walls of the Garden. Some will live online, and some could become part of a video. 

What Voss, herself, is eating tells the complicated story of two working parents trying to raise healthy children in a very processed world. 

“We’re trying to eat healthy, we’re trying to eat real foods, we’re trying to grow foods,” she says.

And she hopes, regardless of what they’re eating, more people will reach out and share what’s on their plates as part of the project.

“As one of my colleagues said, four out of four people eat,” she says. “Everyone has a food story.”