Campus Dining Serves More Michigan-made Food
With sustainability on its radar, Alma College campus dining is looking to increase the amount of Michigan-made food products offered at campus facilities.
With the exception of pre-packaged milk at Joe’s Place deli, all milk comes from a Michigan company. By the end of this term, nearly 40 percent of Alma’s produce will be Michigan-grown as well.
This is a significant difference from 2008, when Alma College purchased the bulk of its produce from a national distributor. Sodexo General Manager Steve Watkins says campus dining hopes to continue this progress.
“Prior to the beginning of this term, we purchased about 90 to 95 percent of our produce through a distributor in Detroit,” he says. “Depending on the season, about 30 percent of its produce is from Michigan farms. We’re looking to increase that number.”
Sodexo recently secured a contract with Cherry Capital Farms, a food distributor in Traverse City that handles Michigan-made produce and products. Watkins says this an exciting development for campus dining. In January, approximately 5 percent of Alma’s food came from CCF.
“CCF is very plugged in with farmers,” he says. “Ideally, we would love to become more involved with them and help them partner with farms in Gratiot County. Our ultimate goal is to purchase products from steps away from campus, so we can support local farms much more.”
Many of Sodexo’s contracts are regional or national in scope, as living in Michigan makes buying seasonal produce difficult. However, Watkins says the more local vendors that Alma can integrate into its food supply, the better.
“By purchasing local, Alma can reduce its carbon footprint,” he says. “We also reduce the distance that food has to travel, so we end up with a fresher, better-tasting product for our students.”
In addition to green split peas from Howard City and other produce now available on campus, Watkins says campus dining has made other important changes to its operations.
“Sustainability is certainly a national trend, and we’re trying to take the necessary steps in that direction as well,” he says. “Alma went trayless two years ago, which cuts food waste and lessens the burden of soap and host water washing the trays every day.”
In order to make these changes more visible, Sodexo hired two student concierges who steer students at Hamilton Dining Commons to the featured Michigan-grown produce on the dining menu.
“The student concierges have been very well received,” says Watkins. “It has been a positive experience. Between this and our food partnerships, we see sustainability at Alma College growing to a far greater degree.”
Posted: Thu, February 23rd, 2012 at 3:59PM