Jan 30, 2009 - David Lawlor
The local, organic produce served at Humboldt State’s main dining hall is fresh. In fact, if you’re eating a salad in The J at noon, there’s a good chance the lettuce was picked that same morning.
HSU’s Dining Services has experienced great success with its local, organic and sustainable offerings. While Dining Services has worked with local food suppliers for decades, about four years ago HSU connected with the Humboldt County chapter of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and began increasing its local food options. The result has been that during the North Coast’s growing season—roughly April to October—between 50 to 100 percent of produce at HSU is local and organic.
“We work with CAFF to plan ahead for our produce needs for the next year and to build relationships with local farmers,” Rudebock says. “So far it’s worked out great and we’ve begun making connections and expanding our selection.”
Melanie Patrick, director of the Humboldt County CAFF chapter, coordinates with Dining Services to find out how much of each fruit or vegetable HSU needs at different times throughout the year, what price points farmers and the University can agree on, and helps farmers in planning how to supply food to Dining Services on a regular basis. The connections CAFF has forged between local farmers and the University are resulting in steady income for growers and high quality food for the campus community.
“A lot of the local farmers’ food on campus is picked the same day it’s served,” Patrick says. “Johnny over at G Farm in Blue Lake [Calif.], he’s out there picking at 6 a.m. and he delivers by 11, so The J is getting incredibly fresh food. The students notice, people notice, and there’s really a big difference.”
Patrick arranges memorandums of understanding between Dining Services and local farmers, giving both an added level of security and establishing expectations. Extending the local growing season through the addition of greenhouses and crop diversification is next on Patrick’s list. Such an extension of the season would allow Dining Services to offer the campus a diverse selection of local, organic foods in greater numbers more frequently throughout the year.
Other than fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers affiliated with CAFF, Dining Services—which serves about 1,400 students on meal plans each semester—also features products from local producers. For example, the Humboldt Grass Fed Beef hamburgers offered at The J Grill originate at the Eel River Organic Beef ranch in Hydesville, Calif., tofu from the Arcata, Calif.-based Tofu Shop is found throughout campus and goods by local bakers Brio and Los Bagels are campus favorites.
Dining Services takes the concept of sustainability beyond the plate and is working to become greener and more environmentally sensitive in a variety of ways. For years, students who purchase meal plans have been given a coupon for a free mug they can reuse, eliminating the need for disposable beverage cups. In that same vein, Dining Services started using a new eco-friendly to-go container last semester that allows students to eat away from the dining hall without generating extra waste with a paper container. And, further reducing the amount of trash generated, HSU annually composts about three tons of food scraps and yard waste.
“The students are the people that help us be aware of what’s going on. They educate us and give us direction,” Rudebock says. “They are our consumer so we really try to respond to what they’re looking for. So, when we looked into purchasing our new refrigeration systems we checked out the options for exterior insulation, we checked out the options for LED lights. These types of things cost us more, but we’re trying to be aware of what our customers want and how Dining Services can reduce its ecological footprint.”
For more information about CAFF visit http://caff.org. For more information about sustainable dining at HSU visit http://www.humboldt.edu/bagel/.