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Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel called "A Short Course on the Food Service Industry: Successful Change Through Knowing Your Business Partner" at the Annual Meeting of the Community Food Security Council in Vancouver, BC. My co-presenters included John Turenne of Sustainable Food Systems, Josh Balk of the Humane Society of the United States and Mike Schreiner of Local Flavour Plus. John started the session with a great overview of how purchasing works in large food service companies. The audience was made up primarily of farm to school advocates so hearing the interworkings of large companies was eye-opening. The biggest take away was that most major companies "score" their unit managers on something called "compliance." Purchasing compliance means buying products that fit into contracts negotiated by a central purchasing agent. Emphasis on this measurement can […]

The New York Times’ article today about school lunches in Britain reminds how the debate about what kids eat, at home or in school, usually misses the point. The article reports on one school where kids refer to new, healthier meals as “rubbish” (translation: I won’t try it) and quote parents at one school who say you can’t get kids to eat food they don’t like. Later the reporter references another school that changed its menu gradually and lowered fat content over time, probably resulting in higher acceptance by kids consuming the food (although the evidence is anecdotal). The debate about getting kids to eat healthier food is usually framed as how can we cater to children’s palates. That so misses the point. What we need to talk about is how we should form their palates. As a parent, it’s […]

Over the past year so much has been written about whether ‘industrial organic’ food is a good thing. Does it help or hurt small organic farmers, dairymen and ranchers – the agricultural innovators of the last half century – if the likes of Wal-Mart, Target and Safeway are rolling out private-label organic brands and making “organic” a mainstream option? For all the commitments made by large-scale retailers about local purchasing, we know that the vast majority of produce and grains are being grown overseas in places where the legal labor is even cheaper than lowly-paid agricultural workers in the US. This trend has the potential to crush small domestic producers who are stewards of our nearby open spaces, air and water quality and, most differentially, of the people who do the physically hard work of food production. This trend also […]

In 2002, we implemented an initiative to remove from all of our cafés, milk that came from cows that were treated with rGBH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone). And, for the most part we have been able to do this except for some gaps on the East where milk free of rGBH just isn’t available in the quantities we need.   When we implemented this initiative, we started a discussion with representatives from Dean Foods, the largest milk producer in the US and our main supplier.  Our “ask” was for s solutions to fill those gaps so that all of our guests across the country could enjoy the benefit of a healthier milk product.  Good discussion. Some surprising interest. Unfortunately no follow up.  Today, we still have some gaps and we are still pushing. I read recently that Dean Food has opened […]

I have, for the last many years, been on personal and professional quest to help preserve regional flavors by supporting farmers’ markets and encouraging local purchasing.  When I say flavors here, I refer specifically to the vanishing diversity of ingredients that have been replaced over the last 50 years or so by those great looking but tasteless varieties that have been pushed on us by agribusiness. Perfect example: the red delicious apple that has nothing delicious about it. Most recently I came across a list of 700 (!) or so food ingredients that are claimed to be disappearing from the American landscape.  This list is the result of a project called RAFT (Rediscovering American Food Traditions) created by a coalition of well respected organizations that include Slow Foods America, Chefs Collaborative, Native Seeds/Research  (  Amongst those 700 ingredients was one […]

Our Eat Local Challenge was featured on the Osgood File radio show. It was a great piece including nice commentary from author Michael Pollan. However, they got one fact wrong. Charles Osgood comments that we had to cut all sugar from today’s menus. Not true. Our Ohio team found local beet sugar. It’s from the Michigan Sugar company which is 121 miles away from Oberlin College. Eckerd College also found a sugar company, Florida Crystals, but they aren’t using the sugar. Instead they are buying brown rice from the sustainably-oriented company. Click Here to Listen to Eat Local Challenge on the Osgood File

The Governor Michael Easley of North Carolina has noted Bon Appetit’s Eat Local Challenge… Download letter_from_governor.pdf

Today is our second annual Eat Local Challenge. Last year’s Challenge was a huge success but this year’s menus are unbelievable. Our chefs have really gone above and beyond. The event requires each cafe to serve a meal made completely of local ingredients. EVERYTHING must be from within 150 miles of the kitchen. That means to make a sandwich, the chef not only has to find a local baker (or make the bread him/herself), the wheat has to be grown locally, the yeast must be local, etc. Then, if they want to use mayo, they’ve got to find local eggs and oil. You get the picture. The only exception is salt. Just scanning the menus, I’ve already learned things about the local bounty in different areas. For example, Bon Appetit at Duke University is serving local mahi mahi. I had […]