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Photo from Raw

What started out as a simple project between two roommates at Penn has evolved into a published book that explores the relationship between young adults and food. In a series of pieces that range from photography to text-based narratives, the book, entitled "RAW," covers a range of topics, including healthy diets, religion and food, and eating disorders.

College senior Sarah Holland and College junior Isabel Zapata first came up with the idea to create "RAW" after realizing that a lot of the pictures they took and the conversations they had involved food. 

The two College seniors said they wanted to create a helpful resource about food for young adults and decided to name the book "RAW" in order to reflect their thoughts on food in a "natural, clean, and honest" manner. 

“We are at an age where we’re constantly making active, independent decisions about our food,” Zapata said. “But a lot of us don’t know much about our food choices and how prevalent issues about food actually are.”

The food guide features a collection of stories from over 30 college and high school students across the country, as well as some from Costa Rica. For many of the authors, some of whom decided to remain anonymous, it was the first time they were able to talk about their relationship with food. 

Photo from RAW

“A lot of the people told me they’d never been able to speak about their personal issues with food before,” Holland said.

Physical and mental health were two major themes that emerged when the two students reached out to friends to get potential ideas for their project.

The two founders said they intentionally featured a wide variety of pieces, including photography, research-focused and informative texts, and creative writing pieces. 

Engineering senior Matthew Zwimpfer, who participated in the photoshoots for "RAW," said the book covers a diverse range of stories to which the audience can relate

“I think the whole point of the book is that it’ll open up conversations about topics people don’t usually talk about,” Zwimpfer said. “That’s very important, especially with mental health becoming a major point of conversation on campus.”

College junior Tamara Prabhakar, who wrote a piece for the book, said "RAW" provided her with a unique platform to write about the intersection of food and psychology. 

Photo from RAW

"Food and psychology naturally are intertwined, and 'RAW' provided a really cool platform for us to tell our stories in a personal, subjective way," Prabhakar said. “Students were incredibly honest in their writing, and that itself can give other students advice and comfort. The book, in a way, challenges the notion of Penn Face because it really conveys students’ raw feelings and lets other people know it’s okay to be vulnerable." 

Since October, copies of the book have been sold on campus during specific sale days, which are announced through the RAW Facebook page. All proceeds from the book, each of which costs $20, will go toward Philabundance, an organization that actively fights hunger in the Delaware Valley Region.

"It just didn’t feel right getting money for other people’s stories that helped us make this,” Holland said. “As cliche as it sounds, we wanted to give back to the community."