A Conscious Campus: The Conscious Stomach Student Organization at Michigan Tech

Articles of The Conscious Stomach student organization.
Articles of The Conscious Stomach student organization.

Many of our blog posts to date have focused on regional and larger community topics. Today’s blog delves into the campus community, highlighting a relatively short-lived, but very interesting student organization at Michigan Tech.

In the winter of 1976-1977 a group of like-minded students and community members from Michigan Tech, Funky’s Karma Kafe and the Keweenaw Co-op started coming together to talk about food, what options there were for whole and natural foods in the Copper Country, political issues surrounding food, and the improvement of food options within university dining services.

The group applied to the university administration to form an official student organization on campus and held their first meeting on January 8, 1977, calling themselves The Conscious Stomach. According to the group’s constitution and bylaws, the group’s purpose was to “promote the health of the individuals of the student body” and to “gather, organize and distribute information pertaining to the nutritional, social, economic, political and environmental aspects of food.”

The organization’s records helds at the Michigan Tech Archives show that The Conscious Stomach was heavily involved on campus, holding bake sales with food made with whole foods and natural ingredients and distributing information among the student body. The group even supplied the Michigan Tech library with books and magazines on alternative food and lifestyles with titles such as Mother Earth News and Vegetarian Voice. Other major activities undertaken by The Conscious Stomach included hosting a “Trees Again” concert during Winter Carnival (1977), establishing the first non-smoking section within the Memorial Union building, and the first ever Bring A Friend to Food Day in 1978. Also known as the Food Day Conscious Banquet, the event was an attempt to highlight food alternatives and encourage others to taste for themselves a wide variety of options.

Central to The Conscious Stomach’s goals was improving dining services offerings on campus, as well as communication between students and dining services related to the food needs at Michigan Tech. Around the same time as the group’s formation the members also established a Dorm Food Committee. According to a Michigan Tech Lode article from 1977, the Dorm Food Committee was established to:

Photographs from The Conscious Stomach scrapbook.
Photographs from The Conscious Stomach scrapbook.

“gather and publish dorm residents’ criticisms and positive suggestions about improving the food service at the dorm; educate dorm students, cooks, dietitians, and bakers about the nutritional, social, economic, political and environmental aspects of food and the relative advantages that certain foods possess in each of the above aspects; to get the dorms to offer whole and natural foods in addition to the regular menu, to get the bake shop to bake with whole and natural foods, to get dorms to offer main courses and soups for the students who don’t eat meat”

The Dorm Food Committee conducted a survey in the spring of 1977 on dorm food to get a sense of the student perspective. Of the 2,306 registered dorm residents for that semester, the group had a response rate of 29% for all the dorms. The conclusions drawn by The Conscious Stomach Dorm Food Committee was that the dorms showed a “significant interest in whole and natural foods” and they “strongly recommend to the MTU Food Services that easily substituted items be replaced with whole and natural foods.”

The Conscious Stomach student organization continued to be an active group at Michigan Tech at least into the early 1980’s. It isn’t quite clear when the group officially disbanded based on the records housed at the Michigan Tech Archives, but needless to say that some of their activities and initiatives in the late 1970’s have shaped campus today.

C.S. [Conscious Stomach] Favorite Recipes.
C.S. [Conscious Stomach] Favorite Recipes.

Interested in learning more about The Conscious Stomach? Visit the Michigan Tech Archives and view the student organization’s records (MTU-027) on site! The collection includes membership lists, surveys, newspaper clippings, recipes, other printed ephemera and a scrapbook featuring photographs from some of the group’s events and activities. The Archive is open for regular research hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, no appointment is necessary. You may also contact the archive directly at (906) 487-2505 or by email at copper@mtu.edu.


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