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Bon Appétit Management Company Supports Student Gardens

Posted Oct 12 2009 10:02pm

By Nina Merrill

beets This summer, I had the privilege of interning at Bon Appétit Management Company, a sustainable food service company that I’m sure many of you have heard about because of its innovative programs and sustainable purchasing policies. On the first day of my internship, I went out to lunch with Katherine Kwon, Bon Appétit’s Communications Project Manager to discuss the projects I would be taking on over the summer. While we were chowing down on salads at a local restaurant in Palo Alto, CA, she explained a recent trend Bon Appétit has been seeing a lot of: students approach their food service provider wanting advice about how to start student-run farms and gardens. With the understanding that Bon Appétit buys a significant percentage of its produce from local and organic producers due to its company-wide Farm to Fork initiative, many of these students contact Bon Appétit with the hopes that it will purchase some or all of the produce grown on their student garden plots. In the past few years, Bon Appétit has developed absolutely incredible (and very unique) relationships with many student gardens, prompting Katherine and Maisie, Bon Appétit’s Vice President, to give me the opportunity to write a guide for student gardeners. This guide was released last week, in conjunction with Bon Appétit’s Eat Local Challenge. I think it is a resource that many of you will be interested in, and so I thought I’d take this opportunity to give a brief overview of its contents.

This guide focuses primarily on how students can develop a successful relationship between their school’s food service company and their student garden. It offers suggestions and stories from student gardeners and Bon Appétit staff and is broken up chronologically into five sections: Plan It; Grow It; Promote It; Bond Over It; and Improve It. Bon Appétit hopes that students will be able to pick up this guide at whatever stage of the garden game they may be in, and feel support in growing a portion of the organic food eaten on their campus with their own two hands.

According to recent statistics, only 8% of today’s farmers are under the age of 35 and only 1% of the US population is involved in agriculture. Through learning to sustainably cultivate even a half an acre, students are showing the world that they choose to take on the challenge of becoming part of the next generation of sustainable agrarians. The fact that students actually want to grow their own food is something that should be supported with every available resource; I hope this guide provides the first official step in that direction! I’m so anxious to hear what you all think of this guide and to hear what is happening on your campus in terms of student farms and gardens. Let’s hear it!

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