“If the poet who sang of a book of verse, a bough, a jug of wine, a loaf of bread… if he had been a Temple student, maybe he would have said something about a Spring day in front of Paley Library where the green turf invites the weary, soft pretzels are at hand to stay the flagging spirit, and bells in the tower are melodic reminders of time’s passing.”
-Walter Holt, courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

Beginning in the 1880s, Russell Conwell’s experiment in the betterment of the working man through evening classes has grown into a massive university that has transformed the physical, social, and cultural environment of the surrounding North Philadelphia community.

Temple University has modeled itself as an “urban campus,” and its presence and growth has come at the expense of the surrounding community. Displacement, gentrification, and urban renewal projects have altered the neighborhood to make way for Temple. These issues can be explored directly, but analyzing them through new lenses offers unique insight not just into the negative side of things, but also the positive.

As human beings, there is at least one thing that unites us: food. We all need it to survive, but food also helps us form identity, culture, and community. Food is good to think with, and acquiring food is a political undertaking. Food as fuel lurks behind our choices. There can be no organizing, no protesting, no development if this main need is not met. Analyzing how food is consumed, offered, exchanged, and changed through the decades of Temple’s presence in the area can offer a new way to see how Temple has created a new cultural landscape.

From the early stages of university development and heavier community presence, to the modern-day food trucks, looking at the foodscape in “Temple Town” can demonstrate how the university and its students interact with the community and culture of Philadelphia to create the image of an urban university.

Learn more about this project and its methodology on our About page. Listen to oral histories and connect deeper over at the Oral History page. Share your own story and experience with food on our Connect page. Explore different stories from Temple’s history at Food at Temple, or learn more by selecting a specific theme. Dig in!