Eat Local Challenge: Deepening community, curriculum, consciousness

A month
ago, we challenged all of our chefs to prepare a meal consisting entirely of
ingredients from within 150 miles of their café (read Maisie’s post for details
of the event). As I collect the great stories about our fourth annual Eat Local
Challenge (ELC), I continue to be inspired by the creativity and passion of our
chefs and managers. They really do go
all out.

What also
struck me about these stories was the depth of sustainability efforts that are
taking place at our accounts nationwide. Many of our chefs and managers
particularly at college campuses have developed unique programs with student
groups and academic departments to teach real-world/hands-on strategies for
putting sustainability into practice. Bon Appétit’s Eat Local Challenge is an
occasion for education and discussion – as covered here by the Christian
Science Monitor
— bringing students and faculty into conversation with local
producers, farmers and chefs on food security, biodiversity, local economies
and community. I think that the more interdisciplinary sustainability becomes,
the greater the impact and reach it will have in the long run. Integrating Bon
Appétit’s sustainable food purchasing practices with the school’s student-run
garden, for example, creates the opportunity for students to experience food
from beginning to end (growing, harvesting, selling, eating, composting).

Here are
several ELC stories I’d like to share with you about Bon Appétit partnerships
at colleges and universities across the country. I hope you find them just as
inspiring as I do.

Seattle University in Seattle, WA: Executive Chef Jim Cooley and Sous
Chef Shannon Wilson created an Eat Local Menu using herbs from Seattle University’s
organic herb garden. Seattle University composts 25 tons of food waste each
year – collected by
Bon Appétit staff in the kitchen – which then fertilizes
the University’s gardens and grounds.

Whittier College in Whittier, CA: Eat Local Challenge day provided
hands-on research for sociology professor Sal Johnston’s students, who surveyed
fellow students’ level of appreciation for local sourcing and its benefits to
local economies. The class also gathered data on wasted food. 

St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN: The student-run garden STOGROW
harvested produce for the event. Students from the
Bon Appétit – Student
Coalition (BASC) manned an information table, providing background on local
vendors, and showed diners
Bon Appétit’s online Low Carbon Diet Calculator tying the
importance of eating locally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Case Western Reserve University in
Cleveland, OH:
spoke with Carl Bowman, co-owner of Bowman and Landes Turkey, as they enjoyed stuffed all-natural, free-range
turkey breast with cornbread dressing, and a rainbow tomato relish. “The Shrimp
Lover’s Dream” dish featured shrimp prepared four different ways, sourced from
local shrimp nursery Calala’s Water Haven.

Hamilton College in Hamilton, NY: Students from the Science, Culture, & Politics of Food class talked to their classmates about their 1812 Garden
on campus. In this garden you’ll only find food that was grown for consumption
in upstate New York in 1812, the year Hamilton College was founded. Local
community group the Madison County Cooperative Extension created maps of local
farms supplying food for ELC day.

Colorado College in Colorado
Springs, CO
: The
student garden provided butternut squash
for soup on ELC day. The Colorado Springs Gazette quoted students who pointed
out the benefits of
Bon Appétit’s local sourcing to the local economy and
dietary health.

University of San Francisco in San
Francisco, CA:
The student
garden project
provided produce for the event. The .35 cents charged for each
to-go container used at USF’s cafes helps fund the USF garden project.

Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH:  Honey from bees visiting Oberlin College’s lush gardens sweetened
Eat Local Challenge dishes like apple crisp.

Partnerships between Bon Appétit chefs, students, faculty and universities
demonstrate an inspiring and effective team effort for campus sustainability.
Linda Robson, Finance and
Administration Fellow for Energy Studies at Case Western Reserve University,
commented that “Case Western Reserve’s sustainability efforts are greatly
enhanced by our partnership with Bon Appétit.” 
We’d return the compliment – our work for a sustainable future is very
much furthered by strong partnerships with students, faculty, and universities.
Marc Marelich, General Manager at Willamette University states it
“With the involvement of the greater Willamette Community we can make a
significant difference in our efforts to become more sustainable. Education is
the key to our success and we all must make every effort to inform, inspire and
ignite the local food and sustainability movement in our communities.”

– Katherine Kwon, Communications Project Manager