By Natalie Roadarmel
Have you ever stopped to think about the impact the produce you choose to eat makes? Willamette has. Thursday evening, Goudy hosted a “Local Food Challenge,” which asked students to eat a meal made solely of locally grown foods. This event showcased the discussion of how local foods are incorporated into Willamette, as well as how they affect students and the surrounding community.
Although the majority of students are likely unaware, considerable steps are being taken by the dining halls’ executive team to serve students local food. Currently, about sixty to seventy percent of the produce served at dining halls is local. Along with this, Willamette has been making consecutive moves towards serving as much organic produce as possible. Presently, among other foods, all of the bananas, oats and tomatoes served are organic.
Eating local foods is greatly beneficial for the Earth as well as for ourselves. Because the distance between farm and customer is much shorter with locally grown foods, the amount of energy and greenhouse gases emitted to get them to your table is much smaller, lessening your carbon footprint. This also produces less waste, because less food goes bad in transportation. Additionally, buying locally grown food helps boost local economies and promotes seasonal eating.
There are various farms from which Willamette buys fruits and vegetables but the majority is currently purchased from Charlie’s Produce, a Seattle based company that specializes in local produce.
The school has a noteworthy relationship with the Zena farm, buying everything that is grown there in order to help fund the farm and to build an interconnected community within the school. Sunnyside Organics is the last major contributor to the food served at Willamette. The school has a special relationship with this farm, sending them all of our compost and in return gaining fruits and vegetables grown in healthy, organic soil.
Andre Uribe, executive chef, emphasized that the school has taken extensive steps to form personal relationships with these local farms and organizations. Uribe will often go to the locations himself to begin a relationship with a farm, getting acquainted with the owners and to observe their growing practices.
Uribe is greatly involved with food sustainability outside of Willamette as well. He is a member of the board of advisers for the Northwest Food Bias Alliance. Here, he works with school districts and other community members to improve food conditions in schools and find solutions for improving food systems in the community. He has served on a myriad of panels, including the Go Green Conference in 2016, and will be apart of an upcoming conference on aquaculture. On top of that, he teaches fine dining cooking classes with an emphasis on ethics in Portland, giving one free class for every three students he teaches.
When asked why he is so devoted to his work, Uribe was quick to respond.
“Ethics for me is huge. I don’t want to go home at the end of the day and tell my daughter, who is six, when she asks me, ‘what about the animals that you guys cook?’ I want to be able to tell her that they’re certified humane, that we do things the right way. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night”.
This passion for sustainability is the driving force behind Willamette’s decision to purchase majority local foods.
“I see food as a huge and powerful way of changing the future. The most powerful thing you can do to change the future is to bet on good people doing good things and agriculture is huge because everyone eats.”