Reducing your Carbon Footprint in the Dining Halls at Carleton

22 October 2013

College is a time for students to experiment – to dabble is various fields of study, to test drug and alcohol tolerance, and to refine our life’s philosophy. In search of identity we distance ourselves from the influences of our parents and reassess the choices that we make, including our food choices. Dietary preferences are trendy on college campuses. These include the typical vegetarians and vegans as well as less familiar locavores, raw foodies, paleo dieters, and freegans. Some folks even label themselves as “flexitarian,” meaning that although they will eat anything you place in front of them (similar to the “see-food” diet) they would like to be recognized as conscious consumers.

At Carleton, these alternative food identities find niches in groups like the Compassionate and Sustainable Consumers, Foodtruth, SOPE, Vegan Baking Club, Farm Club, and at Sustainability house. The members of these groups are committed to defining their food identity and giving it a presence on campus. But everyone has dietary preferences. Just ask Dining Services who hosts bi-weekly Dining Board meetings to address student comment cards with comments that range from “More meat” to “Where are the Fruity Pebbles?” to “Can you serve pies with vegan pie crust?”

Whether we think of these students as conscious consumers or picky eaters, Bon Appétit sees them as customers and is constantly in dialogue with students ensuring that their dietary preferences are met. Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) is committed to “a path toward greater social responsibility and sustainability started as a quest for flavor.” A large component of their mission is supporting local agriculture through their Farm to Fork program.

Farm to Fork food items are well integrated in the dining halls at Carleton. Labeled “F2F” these items include year-round products like beef from Thousand Hills Cattle Company (13 miles), turkey from Ferndale Market (13 miles), chicken from Rural Enterprise Center (3 miles), bread from the New French Bakery (36 miles), and dairy from Hastings Dairy Co-op (24 miles). Seasonal produce is abundant during Fall Term from places like the Carleton Student Farm(<1 mile), SEEDS Farm (3 miles), Laughing Loon Farm (3 miles), Gardens of Eagan (9 miles), and Fireside Orchard (5 miles). This produce is transformed into F2F dishes like Ferndale Turkey burgers with Fireside Apples, Carleton Farm heirloom tomato and basil soup, and Laughing Loon Eggplant Parmesan. Once a year, BAMCO emphasizes their focus on local food by exclusively serving foods within a 150 mile radius for one meal in all of their locations nation-wide, an event called “Eat Local Challenge.”

Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork program helps to inform the food choices for all students. A student who is seeking to reduce their carbon footprint can look for these “F2F” labels as they scavenge the buffet lines and create their meal. If their curiosity is piqued, they can also go to Bon Appétit’s website which has an interactive map of their farm to fork vendors with farm profiles. For the “unconscious” consumer who is too busy to worry about where their food is coming from, thanks to the work that Bon Appétit does to serve these products in the dining hall they are likely consuming these more environmentally sustainable products without even knowing it!

BAM. That’s great. Thank you BAMCO.

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