Local Food Campus Dining

The dining services on campus have bought a variety of local food products, from wheat berries to potato knishes, for SUNY New Paltz students. But that’s just not enough for one SUNY New Paltz club.

Students for Sustainable Agriculture (SSA) strives to give students healthier options by offering food grown and produced by local farmers.

Angela Devivo, a member of SSA, said students build and maintain a trust with these local farmers.

“You are reassured where your food is coming from,” Devivo said. “It’s a mystery where your food is coming from with industrial corporate conventional companies that provide the majority of products on campus.”

For the past six years, SSA has received food and created a bond with farms such as Winter Sun Farms, Redbarn Produce, Hawthorne Valley, and Wild Hive. Developing a relationship with each farm allows the SSA to know how each farmer produces their crops and preserves the quality of their business.

Students have been given the option to eat more local sustainable food each year, however, the amount of local food compared to industrial food hasn’t risen significantly because of prices.

Some products like local apples and pears are the same price, while others, such as organic peanut butter and natural chicken, can be higher.

Matthew Flusser, the production manager of the campus dining services, has been connecting the SSA with farms and obtaining new products every month for local eaters.

Every Tuesday, Flusser and the SSA like to provide the students with natural jerk chicken. Recently, it’s been challenging because the local chicken is more expensive. Industrial packaged chicken is $1.76 per pound while local natural-raised chicken is priced at $3.09. Other meat products such as organic bacon can be up to $22 per pound.

“Even though the prices can be higher, you get what you pay for,” Devivo said. “With local organic food, you get the guarantee of fresh chemical-free organic products and that’s worth the high price.”

Caitlyn O’Donnell, another SSA member, said they are proposing to have the cooks use sunflower or safflower oil. These oils are an alternative to canola oil which is genetically modified. The student’s problem in obtaining the organic oil is that it’s three dollars more for every 16 ounce bottle.

The SSA has fought against industrial food companies to protect the environment as well as quality of food, and argues that big industrial companies that ship their products to New Paltz waste more gas in delivering their products than local farms.

Flusser, with the help of the SSA, has gotten organic granola, breads, cheeses, and yogurt for students from Hawthorne Valley Farms. They have also received items such as free-range shell eggs, natural chicken, organic peanut butter and corn, green beans from Wintersun Farms.

The dining services have recently announced that they are providing preservative handmade potato knishes, every Friday in the dining hall, made by Knishworks, a business in Rosendale.

“The SSA and I are always looking for new local foods that we can safely bring into the food service,” Flusser said. “I think we should always consider buying local first.”

Devivo and the rest of the group have a created a petition which presents the club’s issues in getting more local food and shows how many students care.

Within the next eight years they would like to see at least 30 to 40 percent of the food to come from local sustainable sources.

Michael LaPick

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