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Bon Appetit: My School’s Sustainable Dining Service

Posted Jan 28 2010 12:00am

It’s not everyday we find things to praise private companies about with regards to sustainability in food. But tonight, I attended an event on-campus about the sustainable and socially responsibly practices followed by  Bon Appetit , the dining service that AU has a contract with, and I am convinced now that it is possible!

Carolina Fojo, a fellow with Bon Appetit, spoke at the event and offered a very informative look into some of the great ways that they are striving to serve the most socially responsible, healthy, and eco-friendly food possible. The presentation she gave was informative for the average person, although I know about most of the topics she covered (sustainable farming and the hazards of salmon farming, etc.) Further, the information regarding Bon Appetit’s practices can be found on their Web site, so that wasn’t anything groundbreaking. However, it was nice to see a good turnout at the event. I wish more average students were there–it appeared most were there because they had heard about it from Ecosense (the environmental group on campus.)

You can find more information about specific changes Bon Appetit has made over time  here on their Web site. One of the major changes, switching to cage-free eggs, was actually a change initiated by an AU student five years ago. I think that’s awesome–even though we are students, we can still make a huge impact individually, so think of what we could do as a collective. Here are some areas I think Bon Appetit can improve upon…

CAFOs

Bon Appetit doesn’t really have strict guidelines on  Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations , however they do purchase only grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef. Which might mean that the percentage of CAFO’s is very small. However, it would be nice if they could expand on this and be able to offer strictly CAFO-free meet.

Free-Range Eggs

They currently have only free-range shell eggs in our kitchens, however their “liquid eggs”–so the ones that come in a carton that they use to make omelets and stuff–those aren’t free-rage. Yet.

The “Real Food” Challenge

They also said it’s hard for them to know exactly *where* the food comes from. So even though you are eating something from TDR, it could have ingredients from VA, or ingredients from Brazil. Carolina suggested students that really want to track their carbon footprint do the  Real Food Challenge , which is a movement to make students more aware of exactly how far their food has travelled to get to their plate.

Expand the Percentage of Local Food

Right now, Bon Appetit purchases 20% of its food within a 150-mile radius, which is awesome. But, it would be great to see that number increase. I spoke to the BAMCo manager at AU and she said this is definitely something they hope to see in the future. Of course, this would require some “impractical” changes, like no berries or asparagus in the winter, which are a couple of the air-freighted food products in the world. The other day I bought blueberries at Giant, I looked at the carton last night–they were from Chile. Talk about shame. And, not surprisingly, they tasted awful. :( Never again.

Bon Appetit is one such company that shows “agribusiness,” as we know it, doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be a bad word. Bon Appetit is one business that is making strides to make the food they provide more local and sustainable, and that is absolutely encouraging.

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