WINTER PARK, Fla. — A Rollins College senior says it was a recent health scare that pushed her to ask college leaders to add local, organically-grown, pesticide-free produce to menus on campus.
Katherine Hutcheson says she made a 180-degree turn in her eating habits after being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.
“Eventually, it got to the point where my body was shutting down," she said. "I didn’t get my period for three months and I started to faint."
She started eating organic produce and pesticide-free food in hopes that a more natural diet would help her heal. As she started eating healthier, Hutcheson said it became her mission to help her college community access healthier options as well.
“I want to empower people to know their local farmers, because we need food to survive at the root of it,” she said.
While finding solutions to treat her condition, Hutcheson pitched an idea to serve local organic produce for students while also supporting local farmers at Rollins College.
“It’s important for us to be eating in a way that supports our health and so I decided, with my relationship with all local farmers working at the farmers market, that I (was going) to meet with the dining services and get them involved,” she said.
Rollins College executive chef Mark Kaba said after Hutcheson approached the dining team about what the college could do to help her and others, she quickly became a bridge between them and the farms in the area.
“I think deep inside I was like, 'OK, this is a big ask, it’s a big challenge,'” said Kaba.
Hutcheson, a psychology major who also teaches yoga at Rollins College, said she hopes sharing her health journey and spreading awareness will make a difference for thousands of Rollins College students.
“When you plant that seed of hope it will bloom," she said. "Health and focusing my energy on healing myself has helped me be in the moment and experience the joy of life."
Rollins Dining Services representatives said about 20% of the student body has approached them to request organic foods.
Hutcheson said the goal is to slowly increase the use of local produce and organic foods by 30% at the college in the next couple of years.
Hutcheson no longer has PCOS symptoms and believes eating healthy, meditation and practicing yoga have been key to her healing.