Cafeteria food features regional flavors
More colleges are offering menus made from local foods.
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“It’s great food, and I could taste the difference,” says Emmanuel freshman William Brown, while feasting on (local) chicken stir fry. “I’m going to go back for some pasta.”Skip to next paragraph
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Other students say the challenge let them see firsthand the implementation of values they discuss in class.
Sophomore Danette Pena, who, in her religion and ecology class, is reading “Animal Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver, was happy about the challenge. “The average American meal travels 1,500 miles,” Ms. Pena says, wrinkling her nose at the thought of fruits and vegetables that may not be fresh.
But from a humanitarian standpoint, local buying supports farmers who may be struggling to compete with factory farms, she says, stressing a responsibility to support others in the community. “It benefits farmers, who get to sell directly to consumers, who will then eat healthier.”
Executive chef Carl Macchione says Emmanuel supports his work to implement local foods, from classroom curriculum to additional funds.
Mr. Macchione – who once oversaw a hotel kitchen where local foods weren’t a consideration – says local eating efforts have inspired him to search for additional opportunities to make an impact. Envisioning ways to reduce the school’s carbon imprint, Macchione cut bananas to two days a week because the fruit must be hauled from Central America. He also reduced the size of his beef patties from 5 ounces to 3.2 ounces.
“It’s definitely a change in mind-set, going from having everything available to all-local,” he says, smiling while holding a bright orange pepper that he had plucked from a consortium of local vendors.
Emmanuel sophomore Amy Fell says the school helps students make the connection between local eating practices and a social justice mandate to reach out to others. “I’m from Alaska so we’ve always had farmers’ markets [in addition to] going to the grocery store,” she says. “It’s a way to eat locally but also support your neighbor.”
Ms. Pena says the effort does involve some compromise. For many, it’s monetary. “It might be a little more expensive” to eat locally, she says.
For others, the sacrifice leaves taste buds wanting.
“It might be good as far as trying to save energy and eliminate gas, but I don’t know if I could do it solely. I like my fruits from far away,” says sophomore Christina Costa, referring to the disappearance of the bananas.
McDonald and Macchione say climate can be another obstacle. On challenge day, for example, Macchione had intended to serve roasted root vegetables with the chicken. But what he wanted wasn’t available, so he opted for glazed carrots.
“In California, everything is always in season. But here ... it’s all about the availability of the product,” McDonald says.
Students say that, ultimately, their focus is on benefits to local farmers, something above and beyond simply buying organic foods.
“There’s more of this push for organic. It’s become more common to think of organic rather than a farmer,” says sophomore Allisyn Young. “But the farmers need us to buy from them.”
It’s a sentiment that McDonald seconds, adding that the college sees intentional eating as a part of its mission to build community, inside and outside campus walls.
Emmanuel “really embraces it,” she says. “The project is important, as is the sense of community. They want people to come in, to eat together. Students, faculty, and staff eat together here.”