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A conversation about Makeshift festival

Olbrich Park became a bright spot on the city's map of experiments in placemaking when the new Biergarten opened this summer. With soft pretzels bigger than your head and an oversized Jenga set, I find the Biergarten playful and fresh. 

There are 237 parks listed on the City of Madison's website. That is about one park per 1,000 people. Of those parks, I think Olbrich is one of our crown jewels.

This weekend Olbrich Park will be host to another experiment in placemaking, the Makeshift art and food festival. This fundraiser for our city parks is the brainchild of several Tenney-Lapham neighbors, including folks from Underground Food Collective, Cork N Bottle, and FlakPhoto. 

Alongside temporary installations from artists from around the world will be food. Really special food. The organizers call it "ambitious, affordable dishes in a family-friendly, engaging and immersive experience. A one-day-only happening, Makeshift is Sunday, August 20th from 3-8PM rain or shine.

One of these food experiences is a collaboration between Underground Food Collective and REAP, served from REAP's new food truck.  REAP's mission is to support small family farms and local businesses in southern Wisconsin and increase access to fresh, healthy food for everyone. This pairs well with Underground's seasonal menus highlighting farm fresh produce and locally sourced products.

The Director of REAP, Helen Sarakinos, is a good friend of mine. We've come together around food and art many times--everything from canning beets to curating an installation of five artists work along the Yahara River--so this weekend we biked over to the Biergarten with our daughters and talked. 

Helen says, "Hats off to all the organizers. I really appreciate how they are getting people excited about the possibilities and the future of food in the Midwest. It's so inspiring to be in this city with such a rich food system and see how this could extend to the food our schools are serving children. I have loved working with these visionaries." 

ME: You are a fan of outdoor temporary art experiences like Eaux Claires and Fermentation Fest. You and I collaborated on a project called Yahara Reflections that had a very similar mission to Makeshift: to spark the joy of discovery in familiar places and remind us all of the natural beauty we have right here in our city parks. Are there any particular artists you are really excited to have exhibiting at Makeshift this year?

HELEN: I love the idea of this festival on so many levels, it’s the a fundraiser for public parks, it’s free for everyone, and it’s there and then its gone - placemaking at its best! I have always been drawn to guerrilla art, forcing me to see the same things I look at daily in a radically different way. So I am looking forward to seeing what Michael Duffy does for this event since I’ve always enjoyed his other installations. But so many of the artists are new to me so I’m showing up ready to be surprised, delighted and moved!
ME: Tell me about the food people can find at the new REAP foodcart at Makeshift. I understand it will be showing off your vision for school lunches of the future?

HELEN: REAP is so excited to be part of Makeshift and to feature our sweet new food truck, an incredible donation from Emmi Roth Cheese! One of the ways we hope to put it to use is as a food truck at Madison high schools - since the schools all have open campuses, kids can get their lunch to go, rather than choose between eating a proper meal or joining their friends. The lunch recipes are being developed specifically for the food truck - featuring local produce, and made to go. A few school districts around the country have incorporated food trucks and they’ve been really popular with students.

In partnership with Underground Foods, the kids’ meal at Makeshift will showcase the kinds of lunches we hope to be serving out of the food truck in the coming year. These lunches are good for your body, really delicious and full of seasonal and locally-sourced foods. The Makeshift kids meal will be a rice bowl.

REAP has been working to reform school lunch in Madison for over a decade. This is our vision for the future of school meals: 

  • We will view healthy, fresh food in schools as a vital component to academic achievement. 
  • Every child will have access to high quality, delicious and healthy food so they are ready to learn. 
  • Schoolchildren will know and love the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables - the stigma of “kids hate veggies” will be a thing of the past.
  • It will be normal for all children to know at least some of the farmers who grow their meals. 
  • More of the money spent on food for schools will stay local and help elevate our robust food economy. 

ME: If people reading this, or attending Makeshift, want to help make this a reality for our local schoolkids, what can they do?

HELEN: MMSD Food Services has made some real progress with school meals in the last few years. Did you know they buy almost 100 000 pounds annually of locally-grown fruits and veg for school meals? 

The single best thing we can do as parents is support those efforts. Madison elementary schools this fall will be featuring a weekly locally-sourced lunch. Buy your kids the local lunch! As a community, if we talk about wanting change, we need to support the change. We have to walk the walk. If the District sees interest in local lunches featuring fruits and vegetables, they’ll be willing to grow those options. 

To keep up with plans for local school lunches starting this fall, follow REAP on Facebook or sign up for the newsletter at

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

3-8PM at Olbrich Park 

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