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ISSUE 121 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/28/2007

'Eat Local' campaign educates

By Emily Koester
News Editor

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bon Appetit, St. Olaf's food provider, has long been known for its environmental awareness, but last Tuesday it made special efforts to promote its locally grown menu items. As a part of Bon Appetit's Eat Local campaign, the grains, home, and fruit lines of Stav Hall used only food grown within 140 miles from St. Olaf.

Much of the food for the Eat Local campaign was purchased from an even closer vicinity. The milk, boughtfrom Hasting's Creamery, came from 20 miles away, as did the Thousand Hills beef featured in the home line. The tomatoes and herbs were collected from Open Hands Farm, three miles away; the apples in the fruit line came from Northfield's Fireside Orchard.

To advertise its Eat Local campaign, Bon Appetit partnered with St. Olaf's Environmental Coalition. Members of the coalition set up a table outside Stav Hall to provide the students with information about Bon Appetit's Eat Local day and to promote the benefits of buying food close to home. "The closer to home your food is, the fewer fossil fuels you're using," said Katie Godfrey '08, who tabled last Tuesday.

Charlotte Darling '08, who also tabled outside the cafeteria, used a visual example to demonstrate to passing students the importance of buying local. She held up an apple and an orange and said, "The orange came from 3750 miles away, and this apple came from only 5 miles away."

According to the pamphlets that the tablers handed out, not only does buying local food limit the burning of fossil fuels and green gas emissions, but it also reduces the need for refrigeration energy.

Additionally, buying local supports smalltown economies and keeps communities in touch with one another. That way, consumers know producers and vice versa. "Local is also healthier," said Godfrey, "because they don't have to add lots of preservatives to local foods."

Bon Appetit's Eat Local campaign is only a couple of years old, but in the past it has found other means of incorporating local products. "Bon Appetit chefs have independently bought local food," said Eric Rasmussen, director of operations at Bon Appetit. To do this, chefs advertised individually to farmers to get their names out and to demonstrate interest in buying farmers' products.

Executive Chef Peter Abraham made efforts not only to connect with local farmers but also to promote such policies on campus. "[Peter's] done the majority of the leg work to get the local food here," said Rasmussen. Such efforts include placing fliers in Stav Hall and involving the student body itself.

In keeping with this policy, Bon Appetit also pays for the labor and products of STOGROW, the St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works, where students have the opportunity to gain experience at an organic farm on campus lands. Many of STOGROW's products, fruits and vegetables in particular, appear on the menus in the cafeteria during the year.

Overall, students seem to support the idea of obtaining food from the community, not from far away. "The coolest part about eating locally is the connection I feel with my food. I can feel, touch and taste the food and I can meet the farmers who grew it. I like being part of a whole system," Carl Samuelson '08 said.

"I really appreciate Bon Appetit...Bon Appetit is unique among food servers in that they're aware of the need for local and organic food," Katie Handler '08 said.

Bon Appetit plans to continue their local food programs in the future. "During homecoming, we'll have lots of local products available," said Rasmussen.

The Eat Local flier that tablers handed out also included plenty of suggestions of how students could eat locally. For example, students can shop at a local co-op and eat foods that are in season. Students can also check labels on grocery items to determine a food's source. "We're used to getting food whenever, wherever," said Godfrey, "but that's not necessarily the way it should be."

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