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Food Day Brings Local Food to Campus Café

The Garden Club wants a community garden on-campus open to all and they have been raising awareness through events like last month’s Food Day. Food day is a national grass-roots movement to raise awareness of America’s food system. Food day took over the Washington State University Vancouver café in late October, where a meal made from local meat and produce was served. Students enjoyed a Culture Café meal with chicken from Inspiration Plantation, veggies from NW Organics and produce generously donated by Joe’s Place Farm.
Food day recognizes the fragility of our national food system and promotes awareness of the impact food production has on the environment by encouraging consumers to use local, organic products. In addition to serving a meal from locally grown products, WSU Vancouver’s food day event included three screenings of documentaries on sustainability: Food Inc., Dive! and King Corn. The local food and these documentaries aided in starting conversation about sustainability on campus among students and staff.
WSU Vancouver’s Garden Club planned and organized the event, and partnered with the cafeteria to serve the food. Kim Harless, unofficial president of the Garden Club, states that the club hosted a food day event to create interest in an on-campus garden. This on-campus garden would grow local, sustainable produce for use in the campus café. Garden Club members and managers of the café used the event to gauge students’ interest in meals made from local food. Food day also helped to open students’ eyes to the possibilities of healthy, sustainable food on campus.
The food day event also featured a waste audit done by the Environmental Sciences and Sustainability (ESS) Cclub. The ESS Cclub is a new student organization that evaluates and promotes sustainability on campus. Members collected and audited garbage from around campus. Robert Bacon, sustainability engineer atstudent at WSU Vancouver and founder of the ESS club, said that waste audits like the one conducted on food day highlight the need for increased recycling and composting. He expressed that his hope for the event “is that our café meets local farmers and that local food can become more of a common item on campus.”
Bill Bontem, Café and Catering manager, reported that there was definitely a demand for local food. The local lunch special was sold out by 12:20 p.m. Bontem said that he is “all for the on-campus garden and would love to use produce from on campus” in café lunches. If such an agreement were reached, funds from the café purchases could support the on-campus garden project.
In the mean time, the WSU Vancouver Café is already making progress toward sustainability. On Oct. 31, the café began serving hummus made with organic beans from Truitt Farms in Washington. The catering service just bought 16 pounds of fresh peaches from Joe’s Place Farm for the Chancellor’s Seminar Series. Representatives of the café have also been working with the Health Department on providing more nutritional information to students on their food labels. Bontem describes further labeling, like local food and GMO labeling, as “an ongoing progress.”
Food Day has showcased the demand for local food on campus and may have sparked a change. Bontem is hopeful that the café will set up another local food meal next semester as well.
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