Business & Tech

Four Ways to Change BU’s Food for the Better

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 School of Management.
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 SMG.

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.

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  1. How much is our tution going to go up if they start getting more local and organic food? I think they do a pretty good with what we have in New England. I’m paying a ton already for this school and the food is pretty good. I don’t really care that much about getting more local because I know it’s expensive. We all need to lighten up and get a little more realistic. Also, Slow Food at BU, i signed up for a trip to a farm with them next week and out of all their members there’s only like 4 people going. So they need to step up if they expect other students to step up.

    • Tuition has not gone up from buying local foods, nor will it go up in the future. You think conventional food is cheaper – but imagine how much we pay for shipping apples from New Zealand or potatoes from Idaho when those products are readily available here! Go to a farmers market and check out the prices. I guarantee that Star Market’s vegetable prices are the same if not MORE expensive. There are numerous advantages for working with local farms and companies. For instance BU Dining just sponsored a trip to a local dairy farm (1 hour from BU’s campus) The milk they produce there is LOCAL which is then picked up by GARELICK farms and distributed in the New England area. If they shipped in milk from who knows where, the costs of travel would be ridiculously high. Plus the farm produces its own cheese, at 4$ I bought a nice huge chunk of Havarti. (Compared to my 8$ log of mozzarella purchased at a conventional supermarket the other day – I’d take local any day!)
      I think your idea of local associates local with bourgeois “artisan” gourmet products. This isn’t necessarily true. These are honest farmers making good food in fertile lands. They just produce food on a smaller scale, and don’t have as much support as larger corporations. Doesn’t it make sense to eat apples from an apple orchard in the same state you live in? An increased demand for local foods will help drastically reduce prices for local foods, as there will be more of a market. It’s just a question of supporting these farms, and removing the “exclusive, expensive” stigma associated with them.

  2. Excellent article on an important topic. I’m curious–is there much of a “simple living” movement at BU or in the Boston area in general? If so, would be interested in learning about this and how this might relate to the “slow food” idea.

  3. I love how the fact that every dish the dining hall has a ridiculous amount of fat per serving isn’t mentioned as something that should be improved. I know i’m a little late to be posting on this article, but the health issue needs to be addressed