Four Ways to Change BU’s Food for the Better

Written by Hannah Franke

Boston University has dedicated many resources to promoting sustainability on campus in recent years, especially in dining halls where environmentally conscious food choices have become a daily option.

This year, BU has expanded its sustainability efforts, from offering more local and organic produce in the dining halls to expanding compost and recycling options in the GSU.

However, many in the BU community said there is more that the school can do to make its food services more eco-friendly.

1. Expand its collaboration with Slow Food BU by offering more organic options

Since 2007, Slow Food BU has promoted environmental sustainability by raising awareness and accountability on campus eateries. Its mission? To increase the number of conscientious students and faculty, allowing food to serve as a connective force within dining halls and in our communities.

On campus, Slow Food works with BU dining services to improve sourcing practices. This has included buying local organic crops, reducing campus-wide impact on the food chain and creating direct relationships with the individuals who supply our food, said Julia Sementelli, the vice president of Slow Food BU, on the group’s blog.

Despite this collaboration, however, some students said they haven’t seen enough change – particularly regarding organic options.

“The meat doesn’t seem organic and seems questionable,” said Deb McNeil, a freshman in CAS.

2. Expand the BU Farmers Market

The BU Farmers Market is now entering its fourth season, aiming to “introduce students and the university community to local farmers” and educate students about “the seasonality of New England and what it means to eat locally and seasonally,” said Sabrina Pashtan, director of the market.

The market is expanding this year, with eight vendors already confirmed. Last year, sometimes only four sellers were present.

3. Improve local sourcing

Getting food from local farms means fresher produce, a smaller carbon footprint and – say some – a better local economy.

“BU could make a big difference in the New England economy were it to begin sourcing its produce more regularly from local growers,” said Kristen McCormack, faculty director of the public and nonprofit management program from the Questrom School of Business.
Some students said they agreed.

“I think BU is being very sustainable, especially in regards to the multiple cans at the GSU for recycling and compost,” said Nick Arthofer, a freshman in Questrom.

However, he also has suggestions to improve the system.

“To lessen the processed meat in the dining halls, BU could buy local meat from the Boston area to support local producers, but overall BU has many options for vegetarians and vegans,” Arthofer said.

4. Get students involved

McCormack said creating a student-run cafeteria on campus similar to the University of Massachusetts’ Earthfoods Café would “engage students in running a business, provide nutritional meals and support the local growers.”

Students across campus “could gain invaluable experience,” she said.

But even through everyday choices, students can make a difference, said Elizabeth Jarrard, the
social media coordinator for Sargent Choice, an organization on campus that helps promote healthy and sustainable meal choices.

“The consumer can play a large role in demanding more sustainable food — you vote with each dollar and fork every meal!” Jarrard said.

Originally published in the Daily Free Press, Apr 10, 2011

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