Last month, the Kalamazoo College Creative Dining team conducted research to assess sustainable food purchasing on campus. The results measure our progress in supporting local growers, manufacturers, and producers as well as other sustainable food sources. It will be an annual report, presented every August.
The percentages represent the year’s average, from June 2013 – June 2014 (results from individual months, September and February, for example, would be dramatically different due to Michigan climate and, consequently, availability of local food).
The ‘Local Purchasing’ category includes food and beverage companies like Kellogg, Sweet Water Donut Mill, and Ferris Coffee and Nut, which are headquartered and/or whose products are grown or produced within 150 miles of Kalamazoo. ‘Eco Purchasing’ represents food products with a sustainable designation such as USDA Organic, Cage Free, or Fair Trade. ‘Farm and Artisan Purchasing’ includes local and regional farms and producers that are directly owner-operated, like WaterStreet Coffee, or part of an owner-operated cooperative, like Prairie Farms dairy.
“This isn’t a project, it’s a new way of doing business,” Janine Oberstadt, Operations Director at Creative Dining, said of the importance of the process. She has been working with schools for over six years to assess sustainable purchasing in their Dining Services. Her experience was key in implementing the process efficiently on our campus.
Oberstadt was “pleasantly surprised” with out high results in the ‘Local Purchasing’ category. The less-than-one percent in ‘Eco Purchasing’ was disappointing to her, as she feels that this is an especially important classification.
Oberstadt explained that having this data is key in understanding where we’re working from. She sees it as a starting point, a place to work from.
“These are baseline numbers; this is nothing to be embarrassed about!”
Creative Dining is constantly looking for new vendors and they try to find local producers first. “The only reason we would discount [a local vendor] would be price,” she says.
One change to note in the caf in the coming weeks is Palazzolo’s frozen yogurt – based in Fennville, Michigan – replacing the soft-serve in the ice cream machines. Based on the sample I tasted at K Fest last Thursday, this is a change to be excited about.