CHEWS OP-ED: Bates Dining Makes Local Eating an Easy Choice

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Picture this: On a brisk Wednesday night, you walk into Commons with friends in tow, ready to devour a plate of hearty veggies, grains, and meats. Upon doing your first lap to check out the food, you notice some unusual notations on the food labels. “Locally sourced,” they say, denoting that the food available to you comes from nearby. You scoop yourself some steamed potatoes from Lewiston, a few burgundy beef tips from Greene, a bit of kale salad from Lewiston and Turner, and some pollock primavera from Portland.  Then, you proceed to enjoy a plate of some delicious Commons food.

If you attended last week’s “Local Night,” which was part of Commons’ Adventures in Dining, you might’ve experienced the lovely local food overload described above. The event highlighted the strides Bates Dining makes to bring fresh food to hungry Bates students.

It’s easy to eat locally in Commons. Take a minute to consider the fact that about twenty-five percent of Commons’ food comes from inside Maine. Twenty-five percent!  That means that about a quarter of the time you eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Bates, you’re eating fresh, locally sourced food.

And it gets even better. Thirty-five percent of Commons’ meat comes from Maine, and seventy percent of the dairy available is local. One hundred percent of the milk and of the half and half that you pour into your coffee, tea, and cereal is locally sourced. And one hundred percent of the ground beef served is local as well. That’s impressive.

Commons has a long history of making the conscious choice to serve locally sourced food.  According to Cheryl Lacey, Director of Dining, “Bates has been purchasing locally for over 25 years, not because it was the latest trend but because it was the right thing to do. It’s the most sensible and conscientious way to support the health not only of students, but also of the environment and the local economy.”

Eating locally has both individual and community benefits. Local food is often fresher, more flavorful, and safer to eat. It’s also more environmentally-friendly, as fuel consumption decreases drastically when food doesn’t need to be shipped from across the country or the world to end up on your plate.

Plus, eating locally is a way to support local farmers. At Bates, eating locally means investing in the Lewiston and greater Maine economy, and enjoying high-quality food while you do so.

In the next few weeks, keep your eye out for some special opportunities to eat locally. This week, you can check out the map in Commons’ napkin dispensers to learn about Bates Dining’s Maine sourcing. At dinner on October 9, munch on fresh apples while chatting with representatives from Greenwood Orchards in Commons. And, at the end of this month, compete in a pumpkin carving contest for the chance to win an exclusive local food basket or a gift card to a local restaurant.

And, next time you’re in Commons, don’t sleep on the cider from Turner, the breakfast sausage from Lewiston, the ice cream from Skowhegan, or the granola from Hiram. Pay attention to the pizza dough from Auburn, the breads from Waldoboro, and the beef from Portland. And simply enjoy the lucky opportunities that Bates students are given to eat local food.

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