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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Bon Appetit to host “Eat Local Challenge” with focus on local produce

<w locally do you eat? If you are an average American, your food most likely travels between 1,500 miles and 2,500 miles before it reaches your plate, according to the Worldwatch Institute. However, on Sept. 28th, Carleton students can do their part to change this. Next Tuesday, Carleton College will tackle Bon Appétit Management Company’s annual “Eat Local” Challenge, where students eating in either Burton or LDC can enjoy a lunch made almost exclusively from ingredients acquired within a 150 mile radius (salt and olive oil are the only exceptions). All food that is in compliance with the challenge will be labeled with an “Eat Local Challenge” banner so that students can be certain they are participating.

The Eat Local Challenge is an annual initiative created by Bon Appétit in 2005. Though this is only the third year that Carleton is participating, Executive Chef Michael Delcambre has been involved in the program for the past five years.  As a company, he says, Bon Appétit has always followed the motto “from farm to fork,” purchasing food as locally as possible, usually from small farmers in the area.

While students may assume that the Eat Local Challenge simply consists of buying local produce, “we go as far down the line as possible,” said Delcambre.

“It forces us to look at things like cheeses,” he said, “to make sure that the ingredients are local.” Beef and chicken are only served after it is confirmed that the animals were only fed locally-grown grain. Delcambre even goes out of his way to ensure that olive oil, which is not required to be local, adheres to the rules: this year, he found a man who presses oil and lives exactly 148 miles from campus.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the Eat Local Challenge also has nutritional benefits. Locally-grown food often has much more flavor because it is picked at the peak of ripeness, whereas food that travels a long way is often picked before it is ripe so that it will not be overripe or rotten, or else sprayed with chemicals to preserve its color.

“If I buy a tomato from California,” Delcambre said, “what’s it going to taste like when it gets here?” As a general policy, Bon Appétit almost always buys locally-grown produce, but next Tuesday students can be sure that their fruits and vegetables will be ripe, in season, and tasty.
Of course, Carleton’s dining halls already have a number of environmental initiatives. Currently, the majority of the tomatoes, zucchini, and squash served comes from the at Farm House, which maintains an organic garden on campus. Even in the winter, Bon Appétit does its best to use Carleton’s own produce: Farm House tomatoes are made into sauces, while other vegetables are frozen. Some will be incorporated into Tuesday’s meal, according to Delcambre.
“I think [the challenge is] a good way for an average person to understand how easy it can be to eat locally and sustainably,” said Arielle Koshkin ’14.

Delcambre agrees.  One of the best parts about the program, he notes, is the support it receives from the students on campus. “When I was younger, nobody thought about it,” he said. “But the younger generation, they insist on knowing where their food’s coming from.”

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