Two years ago, Kareem Bouhafs, 23, of Arlington would have been wary of someone who wanted to warn him about genetically modified organisms, the use of pesticides on foods or the many additives present in today’s food.
Saturday, he’ll not only be one of those people; he’ll be doing it on a grand scale, by presenting and underwriting the first Food Awareness Field Day, scheduled for 1 to 7 p.m. at Spy Pond Field in Arlington.
The event will combine children’s games, a young-adult-focused slate of concerts interspersed with brief talks about food issues, and, surprisingly, not much food.
The event is the first production of Project U-Knight, which Bouhafs conceives as a recreational events company that promotes causes.
"I’m trying to make it a nonprofit, so we're still filing IRS paperwork," he said. "It’s not just about food. want to have festivals, field days, concerts ... It can be a very profitable business, but take the profit out of it and add the awareness aspect and you can have very cheap events that serve a mission."
Entry will cost $5 ages 13 and older; for those younger, entry is free until 4 p.m., when the fee changes to $2. For younger visitors, games will include Red Light, Green Light, Capture the Flag, and a scavenger hunt for toy bees that will have been salted around the site.
"We’re trying to inject information amid all these fun things. In terms of the hunt, we’re trying to present the information that a lot of bees are dying as the result of pesticides being used on food plants," Bouhafs said.
Bouhafs, a former deejay at the Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, has also assembled a roster of musical acts that he hopes will draw his contemporaries. Performers will include DJ Doubletake, rappers, Philly G and G-Riot, and the band Score the Record.
To spread the word to families, about the event, Project U-Knights has been leafletting, putting up signs, and going door-to-door. Bouhafs said he is relying on social media, including a roster of e-dresses he built during his time at the Middle East.
"I have a network of people who like to go to concerts," he said. "I have probably over a hundred people trying to promote it on social networks."
Typically, such events use food — very often heavily weighted toward high-calorie indulgences — not only to help draw crowds but to encourage spending, but not the Food Awareness Field Day. Only two options will be available: Dean’s Beans organic coffee will be sold from a truck outside the grounds, and Skinny Pop Popcorn, which has been donated by the manufacturer and will be parceled out for free. The corn is free of genetic modification, its owner says.
Bouhafs partly attributed the lack of food purveyors to relatively late approval for the event by town fathers. "We had to jump through a lot of hoops with the town, and food was a big issue," he said. "It had to be approved by the board of health. We just decided we would go to the vendors directly and let them deal with the Board of Health themselves.
"We got the thumbs up from the town less than two weeks ago — we weren't even sure of the date two weeks ago."
Bouhafs said he decided to start with a food event because beginning a couple of years ago, "I kept seeing more and more news articles, more and more studies, more and more on Facebook, and I started clicking on it. I wasn't the first, and I'm not the last.
"It's alarming, that's what it is. Once people know about it, they don't forget about it. That's why I’m doing this, to add to that pool of people who know about what’s happening with food."
Author, journalist, and speaker Michael Prager writes at many venues, but principally at michaelprager.com/blog, where this story first appeared.
This story was published Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.