Dining halls support local farms
By purchasing food from nearby farms, Dining Services hopes to support the local community.
Did you know that all of the apples in the dining halls are purchased from a farm in Fairfield, Maine? Or that Giffordâ€™s ice cream is made by a family-owned company in Skowhegan?
The Collegeâ€™s dining halls have been incorporating locally grown and produced foods into their menus since 2000. Their efforts have intensified over the past ten years, and now as much as 22 percent Dining Servicesâ€™ purchases are from local vendors. Dining Services is always looking for ways to increase this percentage each year.
Director of Dining Services Varun Avasthi said that Dining Services will make a commitment â€œfrom start to finishâ€ with farmers who develop their land in a sustainable manner. This means that in some cases, Dining Services will go so far as to buy seeds for a farmer at an affordable rate so that he or she is able to produce the volume required by the College.
â€œWe want to support the community that we live and operate in,â€ Varun Avasthi said.
Sodexo, the company that oversees Dining Services, has made sustainability and local food sourcing a major part of its Better Tomorrow Plan, a set of policies that the company created in December 2009. Four of the 14 commitments outlined in this plan concentrate on the companyâ€™s dedication to promoting local, sustainable and responsible purchasing practices and making local development a priority.
According to David Roy, a chef in the Foss Dining Hall, there are an average of four to five dishes in each meal at Foss that contain local ingredients, and all of the dining hall staff are directed to purchase and use local ingredients before turning to other sources.
â€œWeâ€™re helping our neighbors and getting a nice fresh product in return,â€ Roy said. â€œEverybody comes out smiling.â€
As far as meat products are concerned, some local meat can be found in Roberts Dining Hall, but the majority of the meat in the Collegeâ€™s dining halls is not locally sourced.
Most of the meat is brought onto campus frozen in order to maintain food safety standards, and Avasthi said that finding local vendors who can deliver this kind of product in the quantity that the College requires is difficult. However, Dining Services is currently looking into a vendor in Maine that may be able to provide that type of a product.
Several everyday items in the dining halls are from local sources. For instance, all of the milk on campus is bought from Oakhurst, a local distributor whose sources are 80 percent local. The College buys 30,000 pounds each of potatoes and carrots every year from a local farmer. The broccoli on campus is local through November. The tomatoes are from the on-campus organic garden maintained by Colby Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (COFGA) and the Backyard Farms company in Madison, Maine. All of the paper used in the dining halls is also produced locally by a plant that uses 100 percent recycled materials.