Monday, October 24, 2011

Local, healthy, sustainable: Campus Dining serves local food as part of National Food Day

Lindsey Treffry | Argonaut

Locally-grown meats and vegetables were served to University of Idaho students Monday as part of National Food Day, a national effort to bring together students, instructors, health professionals, community members, and food providers to support healthy, local and sustainable food.

“It’s been explained as ‘Earth Day for food’ with the focus being on local and sustainable food options,” said Nathaniel Prior, the marketing manager for UI Campus Dining.

For the event, vegetables offered at J Street Cafe in the Idaho Commons and at Bob’s Place were purchased from Soil Stewards, an organic UI plant science research farm, while pot roast and sausages were purchased from Vandal Brand Meats. The UI Sustainability Center set up a table in the Commons to inform students of fair trade, pesticides, and smart food purchases, and campus dietitian Verna Bergmann was at Bob’s to talk about eating well and nutrition. Donna Mills, from Soil Stewards, provided pumpkins for a painting contest that will be judged over the weekend.

Some of the main goals for Food Day, as posted on the movement’s website, included the expansion of accessible food to alleviate hunger, the support of sustainable farms and fair conditions for food and farm workers, as well as the reduction of diet-related disease and the promotion of safe, healthy foods. Food Day also calls for protection of the environment and animals by reforming factory farms, and for the reduction of junk-food marketing to children.

“It’s a fun way to be able to showcase (campus dining sustainability efforts) and inform patrons that may not have been aware,” Prior said.

Fact sheets about campus dining sustainability efforts from 2010 to 2011 were posted around the cafe. These efforts include the eradication of food trays as well as disposable plates and silverware. Individual condiments are now offered in bulk. And, if students bring their own reusable cups, espresso drinks are discounted by 25 cents and drip coffee by 10 cents in order to reduce paper waste. Other efforts include the use of Aspretto coffee and tea at Bob’s Place, which is 100 percent USDA certified Organic, as well as the use of biodiesel in Sodexo delivery trucks.

Prior said campus dining has purchased produce from Soil Stewards in the past, but more so this year. They have also partnered with Vandal Meats in the past for concession, retail and resident dining.
Fred Hisaw, animal science major, works at Vandal Meats as part of his undergraduate research. He said Sodexo purchased pot roast as part of Food Day.

“One of the big benefits is that it just keeps that money local, so the local area producers can get that money back that they invested in the product,” Hisaw said.

According to Prior, 1.9 percent of campus food comes from Latah County, while 73.1 percent is from the Northwest region.

“We try very, very hard to try and purchase food locally,” Prior said.

Jennifer Emerson, volunteer coordinator for the UI Sustainability Center, helped set up a display for Food Day to showcase campus sustainability efforts as well as information on the local food economy.

“I think that maybe it’ll just make (students) more aware of purchases they make and what they put in their body and the economy around food,” Emerson said. “It will give them a chance to take a look at where food comes from and to appreciate it better.”

Emerson said the center also gave out information about foods with high amounts of pesticides, like apples, and information on how to make healthier choices when shopping at the grocery store.
This was the first ever Food Day at UI and around the country, but it is planned to occur annually on Oct. 24 throughout the nation.

“We definitely hope to continue it and it will catch on,” Prior said. “Food is something that is very important to all of us — to be more aware of what we’re eating and how it really impacts everything around us.”

As seen in the Oct. 25 issue of the Argonaut.

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