Dining serves 150-mile meal in effort to be more sustainability conscious

Mission Park dining hall hosted a 150-mile sustainable food breakfast last Wednesday. The meal boasted local foods raised and grown within a 150-mile radius of the College campus. A variety of foods including Hudson Valley cage-free eggs, East Mountain Farm sausage, Nitty Gritty Flour pancakes, Ioka Farms maple syrup and many other local products, were served to 276 students.

The meal was a successful continuation of the sustainable food initiative prompted by the student groups Real Food Williams and Thursday Nights Grassroots. Begun last year as part of a “No Impact” week, 150-mile meals seek to raise awareness of local sustainable food options and promote the efforts of dining services to reach higher levels of sustainability.

The 150-mile radius is set forth from the Real Food Challenge as a distance most advantageous for promoting the local food economy and reducing the effects of large-scale transportation of produce. The College took up this challenge with the intention of promoting close food sourcing, continuing a familiar relationship with the local community and achieving high levels of sustainability. Dining services has been involved in this initiative for many years and hopes to achieve a level of 20 percent “real food” by 2020 as defined by the Real Food criteria.

Since the inception of the 150-mile meals last year, the process of creating menus and finding locally grown food has become easier with the increased experience of Dining Services, students and faculty. While it is challenging to produce a full meal with only local options during the winter, dining services has actively pursued many different venues and used creativity to create nutritious and filling meals. They have also been able to balance the economic differences that occur due to the higher costs of local products by reducing extraneous items such as the soda machines, imported cereals and store brand breads. While some students were taken aback by the lack of coffee and other usual items at Mission’s breakfast, the meal brought into question the necessity of these items.

One of the most important aspects of the meals according to Brent Wasser, the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Program manager at the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, is to encourage students to engage in their food consumption. He says of the initiative, “every meal has the opportunity to provide a lesson, to be a conscious learning moment.” He hopes by continuing these meals throughout the three dining halls and for other student events, students will become more actively involved in their food consumption and question the impact of the plethora of choices provided in the dining halls.

While 150-mile meals are a large move toward promoting and reaching a higher level of sustainability, many local products are available every day in the dining halls. The 150-mile meals are key in highlighting these products and Dining Services’ pursuit of utilizing local sourcing and sustainability. Dining Services will continue to host 150-mile meals throughout the semester. The next meals will take place in Driscoll for lunch on March 13 and Whitmans’ for dinner on May 7. There will also be a full day of 150-mile meals to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, with breakfast at Mission, lunch at Driscoll and dinner at Whitmans’.