For most of us, the college years don’t include a lot of high-end gastronomy. (More often than not, dinner consists of ramen and late-night pizza runs.) But Audrey Scagnelli, a 20-year-old George Washington University sophomore, is on a mission to turn that notion on its head. Her new magazine, College & Cook, aims to engage a new generation of foodies, farmers and young activists. It’s published right in Scagnelli’s dorm room, and receives contributions from students all over the country. We caught up with Scagnelli to ask her how she cooked up the idea, and who she's hoping to reach.
TakePart: Have you found an eager audience for the magazine?
Audrey: The old college stereotypes are changing rapidly right now. There’s a growing community of people that are interested in food in some way or another—be it the allergy portion of it, sustainable food, or those who just really enjoy cooking. Twenty years ago there may not have been a demographic for this, but today the potential is huge.
TakePart: So this is a comprehensive magazine? It’s not just for people who consider themselves foodies or are interested in going local or organic, but a guide for all things food?
Audrey: Right. My vision for College & Cook is to unite this whole food-interested community. I think that people who are into sustainable agriculture may be able to learn something from people who are passionate about food allergies, and vice versa. Hopefully College & Cook can bring that out, start a new dialogue. That’s definitely the goal.
TakePart: With all the different platforms out there for spreading your message, why did you decide to create a magazine?
Audrey: I decided to go the magazine route instead of a website or blog because I felt most comfortable with it: I currently write for a gluten-free magazine, served as high school yearbook editor and have had internship experiences in the past dealing with layout and design. Plus, I felt that this was the best way to get all this content into one package, as opposed to having sections on a website. With the magazine you flip through and look at the whole thing.
TakePart: How do you recruit contributions? Do they come to you?
Audrey: For the first issue, I reached out to a bunch of different people and organizations that I thought would make a good story: student food bloggers, college food magazines, foodie friends and photographers, anyone who might be interested.
I’m still contacting experienced chefs and organizations that might have tips for students, but now there are so many young people coming to me who want to write stories! I feel like I’m working on two different magazines, because it’s so different this time than it was working on the first issue.
TakePart: That’s great!
Audrey: Yeah, it’s so cool! The first day we went live, two kids sent over their resumes. I called my mom and just started laughing: I was 19 at the time and it was so incredible to me.
TakePart: You’re a Political Communications major. Has that had an impact on your interest and understanding of food issues?
Audrey: Well there is certainly a political side to food; the FDA, labeling laws… there is just so much out there. I took a class in my first semester called The Politics of the Kitchen -- that was when I first thought to myself “okay, this could be a real subject that could be a career.” Food and politics are my two big passions. If I can figure out a way to combine them down the road, that would be cool.
TakePart: Do you go to school full time? How do you make it work?
Audrey: I don’t really know how to answer that! I’m on my spring break right now, and I’m so excited to have a week just to work on the magazine. I’m definitely learning a lot about time management, since I’m also working on an internship. It’s a challenge, but I’m having fun doing all of it. And I’m using my planner more now than ever before.
TakePart: You received a fantastic amount of press for your first issue. Are you still taking it all in?
Audrey: I’m overjoyed! I kind of thought this would start in the blog world and grow from there—that maybe one day it would get this much attention—but I didn’t expect it all at once.
I think it really demonstrates that there was—and is—a need for publications like this. Food really is a growing part of college life, even in academia: NYU has a whole food studies program now. I think one of the reasons that College & Cook generated so much interest is that there’s a growing group of people who want it to exist.