Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2008

This post is one of a series of essays written for the New Amsterdam Market. Each essay stems from a conversation between the author and a vendor who participated in the New Amsterdam Market of June 29th. The essays seek to address each vendor’s (food-related) enterprise, to highlight the reality behind their commitment to sustainability, and to convey the voice and personality that they bring to their work.

 

By the time one finishes a conversation with Gabrielle Carbone, it’s impossible not to wonder what flavors have popped into her mind, how many cones she has imagined or remembered, and how many of her rapid thoughts, as she would say, will soon “snowball” into something new and marvelous. She and I sat this week on the wooden planks of the pier by the Brooklyn Bridge, her head dwarfed by a scoop of ice cream she skillfully saved from puddlehood in the heat. As the thin woman spoke, I wondered whether her particular metabolism magically turned cream to creativity, and whether she might have produced over a thousand flavors by now (rather than 400), had she not been occupied with running a business. “The sweet basil and goat cheese ice cream? I thought of that in seven seconds!” she said. “If I had time, I could really create something!”

While those ignorant of Gabrielle’s talents might advocate giving the ever-energized woman a well-deserved vacation, I’m afraid the daily regulars at the Bent Spoon have no such thing in mind. Residency in Brooklyn has limited me to far-from-daily consumption of Gabrielle’s creations, but I have visited The Bent Spoon a few times, and have several friends whom I can’t imagine would last even a week without a trip to the shop.

The Bent Spoon is located in Princeton, New Jersey. Since it’s opening in 2004, Gabrielle Carbone has made her ice cream straight from scratch, and the focus has been the same: as often as possible, the ice cream’s ingredients are not only organic, but sourced from local New Jersey farmers. These ingredients include berries, herbs, fruits, cheeses, honey, cream, of course, as well as the hundreds (thousands?) of dozens of eggs that go into the ice cream every week. Gabrielle, co-owner of the shop along with her husband, Matthew, gives the impression she doesn’t have time to be following some kind of local food trend. She just remembers where the good tomatoes came from when she was a kid! Straight from her Italian family’s garden by the home where she grew up in New Jersey. “Food was the center of every holiday,” she said. “Fresh food from a local garden or farm was one of those things you just had, and then you got to college and realized there was a need for it.” Both Gabrielle and Matthew grew up in the Garden State, and (as they say) have wholeheartedly embraced the bountiful New Jersey “terroir.”

“It’s like an insurance policy,” said Gabrielle. “If you put good stuff in what you’re making, it’s gonna taste good.” Gabrielle knew that high quality food was available in her state, and “the ideas just snowballed!” she said. “By now we’ve come up with 400 flavors, and it’s really easy – I think of something I like, mascarpone for example, and then I’ve already got so many good flavors at my fingertips! Blueberry mascarpone, cranberry mascarpone, lavender mascarpone.” She talks fast, almost like a little girl. “We have so much to choose from! There’s a pear and grape trellis we’re allowed to pick from, literally around the corner from the shop. We make the best concord grape sorbet I’ve ever had! Well, the only concord grape sorbet I’ve ever had….”

The creator of The Bent Spoon holds a unique position in the community of New Jersey farmers and Princeton restaurants: she is a sort of middleman between them, and one whose talent is greatly appreciated. The retail shop is the focus of Gabrielle’s business, but The Bent Spoon also distributes ice cream to about fifteen restaurants in the area. While these restaurants otherwise seek to source directly from farmers, they appreciate a producer whom they can count on to buy local ingredients.

In fact, there’s more demand for their ice cream than Gabrielle and Matthew can produce. “Sometimes farms deliver our ingredients when they’re delivering to restaurants as well,” she said, “But sometimes we have the members of our staff go pick blueberries for us. Most often we have to pick up our ingredients from our sources. We meaning me, in my car, driving out to the farms.” Too small for most distributors, The Bent Spoon often has to make do with such time-consuming practices. “There aren’t more people making ice cream this way (from scratch, organic, local),” Gabrielle said, “because right now, it’s not a good business model. It’s pretty much impossible to run the shop and have a balanced life.”

Balance or no, Gabrielle has managed to render her ice cream a tasty connector of peoples and communities – of producers and consumers, farms, schools, and restaurants, children, chefs, students, and other food businesses. The public schools in Princeton and the Whole Earth Center, a local health food store, have worked together with The Bent Spoon for nearly two years, to create the School Gardens Community Confections Program. School gardens, local farms, and food businesses donate ingredients to The Bent Spoon each month (mint, for example, peaches, coffee, or chocolate), and the resulting 80-100 pints of ice cream are sold (monthly) at the Whole Earth Center. Except for just enough money to cover the cost of packaging, all the proceeds go back into funding Princeton school gardens. “The students grow or help harvest something, they get to eat it in ice cream, and the money they spend goes back into their garden’s growth!” Gabrielle said. “I love that kids here get to be a part of a circle like that.”

One might wonder how The Bent Spoon survives the seasons, or be surprised to find their raspberry sorbet still available in February. “I can’t have a case of cheese-flavored ice creams all winter,” Gabrielle admitted. “I have to have some of the things people want to have, to keep a business.” But if she must get raspberries from California in February, they will be organic. “I freeze New Jersey blueberries and strawberries, but I don’t have room to freeze raspberries too. And when it comes down to it – I can’t be sure what’s more sustainable. Plugging in an extra freezer to keep raspberries all winter? Or having them shipped from California? Of course I’d rather have New Jersey berries, but I do what I can.”

Though most (really, more than most) of her hours are spent in the shop, Gabrielle tries to find time to step back a little from the daily tasks of The Bent Spoon. Two years ago, Gabrielle learned last-minute of Terra Madre, Slow Food’s World Meeting of Food Communities in Turin, Italy. More or less overnight, she gathered together her farmers and collaborators, and was welcomed to attend the event as the Community of Central New Jersey Ice Cream Makers and Vegetable and Herb Growers. “I try to keep up on current issues and food policies,” she said. “But when you have a business, it closes you off to a lot of stuff. Sometimes you can have a greater impact if you step back a little bit, and look at the bigger picture.”

After Terra Madre, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini came to visit The Bent Spoon, and “it was the greatest thrill of my life,” Gabrielle said. “I remember him laughing, saying he had never heard of a ‘Community of Ice Cream Makers and Vegetable and Herb Growers!’” She said it was great to feel she was (at least) a small part of the ongoing, larger efforts to change our food system. “And that includes the New Amsterdam Market,” she mentioned. “It really helps us small guys do our job, to know this large-scale, organizational work is being done as well. It is a service to us all.”

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This post is one of a series of essays written for the New Amsterdam Market.  Each essay stems from a conversation between the author and a vendor who participated in the New Amsterdam Market of June 29th.  The essays seek to address each vendor’s (food-related) enterprise, to highlight the reality behind their commitment to sustainability, and to convey the voice and personality that they bring to their work.

 

Meeting with Jessamyn Waldman was a close-up reminder of the multi-faceted creativity and perseverance it will require to build a new food system in this country.  Jessamyn has her own perspective on sustainability, a powerful one, of immigrant justice and fair labor practices, and one she has made manifest by baking bread, a substance she considers simultaneously cultural and universal, common, and yet symbolic.

Hot Bread Kitchen is a non-profit bakery business that provides employment opportunities for immigrant women while honoring and preserving their bread-making skills and traditions.  Just over a year after founding the Kitchen, Jessamyn now works part-time with four bakers to produce a small set of breads: French baguettes and multi-grain loaves, Italian focaccia, hand-ground Mexican corn tortillas, and an organic, Armenian lavash.  The ingredients in the bread are locally grown and organic whenever possible.  While the women of Hot Bread Kitchen sell at the community market in Dumbo and at the Brooklyn Flea, most of their breads go to wholesale customers.  Their products can be found in Manhattan at Eli’s and Saxelby Cheesemongers, and in Brooklyn at Blue Apron Fine Foods, Foragers MarketGet Fresh,Greene Grape ProvisionsMarlow & SonsStinky BrooklynUrban Rustic, and Victory Café.

Jessamyn rushed in late to our meeting at Blue Marble, and while I was afraid the whole conversation might be conducted out of breath, she was poised and articulate within seconds.  Originally from Toronto, Jessamyn came to New York for graduate school, and previously worked for the United Nations, as well as several NGOs, all of which were primarily related to migration issues.  After finding herself “totally uninspired,” most of her time spent on administration and paper work, she tried education, hoping it would prove to be a more hands-on, satisfying field.  “I did a good stint in New York City public schools,” she said.  “But the bakery idea developed, over years of meeting people – funders and investors – and I eventually came to the realization that I wasn’t going to be happy in any other job until I tried it.”

While working part-time as the administrator at a local high school, Jessamyn earned her Master Baker Certificate from The New School.  She then began work as a baker at the New York restaurant Daniel.  She looked into organizations with moderately similar missions to her own, including Mama’s Hot Tamales in Los Angeles, Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, and St. John’s Bakery in Toronto.  She founded Hot Bread Kitchen in May 2007, and received a grant from the Eileen Fisher Grant Program for Women Entrepreneurs in November 2007.  

Jessamyn attributes the in-progress-success of her business not only to the quality of her breads, but also, primarily, to the overwhelming appeal of the idea behind the bakery. “The last thing I want to do is come across as benevolent, as a do-gooder,” she said.  “But I provide a living wage.  It’s paid training. And I think the women I’ve worked with greatly appreciate the opportunity to have that.”  Jessamyn founded Hot Bread Kitchen with the knowledge that in New York City, immigrants make up 66% of low-wage workers, and the majority of immigrant women get stuck in low-paid domestic work.  She recognized that the overwhelming majority of bakers in the city are men, even while immigrant women often have valuable bread-making skills and experience from their home countries.  New York has hundreds of restaurants, representing dozens of ethnicities, Jessamyn mentioned, “and almost all cuisines include some sort of baked bread-like substance.  But few restaurants actually make their own bread.” “It’s a powerful symbol,” she said.  “Bread works as an image and a concept.  There’s something very visceral about it.  It conveys the message of multiculturalism.” 

Hot Bread Kitchen bakers currently include women from Afghanistan, Togo, Mexico, and Ecuador.  They currently bake bread only a few times a week, in the commercial kitchen of the Artisan Baking Center in Long Island City.  As employees, the bakers are offered weekly ESL classes, taught by volunteers. Jessamyn looks forward to the growth of Hot Bread Kichen, to the establishment of a permanent bakery location, and to offering the bakers full-time jobs. A recent recipient of the 2008 Echoing Green Fellowship, Jessamyn is only now able to devote herself full-time to Hot Bread Kitchen.

Read Full Post »

This post is one of a series of essays written for the New Amsterdam Market.  Each essay stems from a conversation between the author and a vendor who participated in the New Amsterdam Market of June 29th.  The essays seek to address each vendor’s (food-related) enterprise, to highlight the reality behind their commitment to sustainability, and to convey the voice and personality that they bring to their work.

 

Jake Dickson matched my expectations in appearance and style.  Meat guys don’t have the lanky, longhaired look of gardeners or foragers.  Jake’s short ruddy curls and friendly, freckled stature fit his profession.  His frank, good-natured, manner shifted easily between small talk and sales, of steaks and chops, roasts and ribs, beef and bacon.  Still, I’d underestimated the wealth of knowledge that plays foundation to his recently launched business.  After we spoke for an hour over breakfast, just before the Sunday market in Park Slope, it was obvious to me that Jake could have kept talking all day.  He may have grown up in Princeton, attended Cornell, and worked in marketing for American Express.  But now, the man knows meat.

Dickson’s Farmstand Meats is currently a fixture at two weekly markets, in Morningside on Saturday and in Park Slope on Sunday.  Offering various cuts of beef, lamb, and pork, Jake knows where each piece of meat came from, how the animal was raised, and the slaughterhouse where it was processed.  He buys whole animals from specific farms, and works with two small slaughterhouses.  If you’re interested, he’ll tell you everything there is to know about your protein. 

The baseline requirements of meats sold through Dickson’s Farmstand are the following: between farm, slaughterhouse, and point of sale, there are less than 400 miles; the animals are given neither antibiotics nor animal-based feed; the animals have never spent any time on CAFOs or feedlots.  Traceability is a priority for Jake, and the meat he sells has a lot number which will tell you the exact animal it came from, and how, where, and by whom it was raised.  All of the farms Jake currently works with are in New York State: the cows and pigs are raised at Herondale Farm in Ancramdale, Wrighteous Organics in Schoharie, The Pigs Place in Fort Edward, and Sarmarlynn Farm in Vernon; the sheep, at Woolley Sheep Farm in Rutland. 

Jake set his local radius with the confidence that there’s enough quality meat raised within 400 miles of New York City to feed a healthy business.  In fact, “it’s slaughter houses that are my most important relationship,” he said.  “Fifty to seventy-five percent of slaughterhouses are untrustworthy.”  Jake works with Nichols Meat Processing in Altamont, New York, and Leona Meat Plant in Troy, Pennsylvania.  Both are locations where “a busy day means slaughtering about ten animals,” and where he can trust the butchers to follow his exact specifications.  Jake spent three months working at Nichols last year, respects the skill and experience demonstrated at both locations, and has built up a strong relationship with the individuals who run them.

Jake’s three months at Nichols Meat Processing rounded out eight months he dedicated to research before opening Dickson’s Farmstand.  Last spring, having previously worked in marketing for several years, Jake knew he wanted to start his own business, was interested in meat, and recognized the need to really understand the industry before attempting a business plan.  He worked for three months at Cornell University, literally living with about 700 cows, before moving on to work at a butcher shop for about a month.  He left the butcher shop to work part-time at Nichols and part-time at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.   He learned what he could, and then set about creating his business.

Unique in the meat industry, Jake ensures that each of the products he sells is labeled with the name of the farm it came from.  “We take traceability to the extreme.  If you have all these great farms, why not highlight them?” he reasoned.  “If I put everything under my name, I’d be cheapening the product, removing the local flair.  Why not highlight the inconsistency – of what cuts are available, from what farms – as a differentiating factor, instead of a liability?”  Of course, the business is still young, and Jake can only predict his reasoning will turn the requisite profit.  “It all sounds good,” he said, “but it’s still an experiment.  Ninety percent of our customers don’t care about the details of their meat source at all.  Eight percent are interested, but really just want to know the name of the farm.  It’s only about two percent that actually look into the details that I provide.”

The farms Jake works with all meet his baseline criteria, but vary otherwise.  Some of the meat is organic, some isn’t, and most of his beef comes from Wrighteous Organics, where the cows are fed on grain (not grass).  “Most people aren’t interested in grass-fed,” Jake said.  “Grass-fed beef isn’t nearly as fatty, or marbled.  It doesn’t look as good in the package.  I buy less of it because it sells less.”  For the moment, Jake also sells only frozen meats, although he hopes to be selling fresh in the fall.

Neither nostalgic nor necessarily innovative, Jake referred several times to the mix of old school and new school practices in his work.  “It’s most important to be authentic,” he said, “to preserve the local flair.”  Sometimes that means recognizing the history of our regional meat industry, the old-fashioned butcher shops and neighborhood relationships, and sometimes it means encouraging the local and creative, the entrepreneurial.  One might call his small-scale slaughterhouses old-fashioned, Jake mentioned, but then “rotational grazing is great, and that’s more of a new thing.”

Jake’s prices are surprisingly affordable, an advantage he attributes to the structure of his supply chain: farmers — slaughterhouses – Farmstand — consumer.  Acting as middleman between producer and consumer, Jake runs his business such that prices stay reasonable, and yet maintains a personal relationship with his sources that he can convey to his customers.  Jake explained that his farmers don’t necessarily have the time to spend a day in the city, but that their relationship with Dickson’s enables them to reach urban consumers.

While he can sell high-end cuts at the markets in the city, Jake mentioned the importance of being able to sell every part of each animal.  Working out of a butcher shop would enable him to produce more added value products, like sausage made with fresh ingredients, so he might achieve true nose to tail sales (and eating).

Of course, Jake hopes his business will take off, and scale up.  He rattled of the system he has ready to make this growth possible.  “We have a custom-built database prepared,” he said.  “Eventually, if we grow enough, the meat will be scanned in at the slaughterhouse [to maintain traceability], and then sold online through direct marketing and direct delivery.  We’ll sell steer-by-steer.  Customers will be able to see which parts of an animal are available, and will be able to buy only those parts left, until the whole animal has been sold.”

Jake is currently working on the renovation and revitalization of a small butcher shop in Nolita in Manhattan.  “The owner is the great uncle of a girl I knew in high school,” he explained.  “His mom ran the shop till she passed away ten years ago, when she was ninety years old.”  There’s a lot of work to be done on the shop, Jake said, but “the hooks are still hanging from the ceiling, from when animals were slaughtered just outside in the alley, and then butchered in the shop.  You can’t recreate that.”  Of course, there’s also a lot he’ll have to change.  Instead of following the butcher shop family’s tradition of buying from a West side meatpacker, Jake hopes to recreate the shop as a destination for local, sustainable meats.  “It really will be a case of old school meets new school.”

Read Full Post »

This post is the first in a series of essays written for the New Amsterdam Market.  Each essay stems from a conversation between the author and a vendor who participated in the New Amsterdam Market of June 29th.  The essays seek to address each vendor’s (food-related) enterprise, to highlight the reality behind their commitment to sustainability, and to convey the voice and personality that they bring to their work.

 

A conversation with a working chef is usually a somewhat brief, rapid-fire exchange.  You the non-chef must make your point, and make it quick, preferably to the rhythm and speed of vegetable chopping, egg whisking, or bread slicing.  If the chef likes you, he or she might look up. 

Not so a conversation with Caroline Fidanza, chef of Brooklyn restaurants Diner and Marlow & Sons.  Caroline met me with a confident, modest manner, a warm, thoughtful eloquence.  New Amsterdam Market has had a few years to gain her dedicated support and understanding, and sitting at the white chipped tables in the handsomely dark, dim lighting of Marlow & Sons, I was charmed by her welcoming warmth, her glow of youth and experience.

 

Diner opened in 1998, on Broadway and Berry Street, a sunny Brooklyn corner jutting from the shade of the Williamsburg Bridge.  Caroline has been the executive chef from day one.  “The values of using fresh, local foods had been instilled in me while working at Savoy,” she said, and Diner’s owners Andrew Tarlow and Mark Firth needed no persuasion to prioritize these values in their new restaurant.  Beyond being a result of her own influence, Caroline mentioned, Diner’s farm-to-restaurant sourcing really began when Andrew’s father-in-law started organic farming in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  “He introduced us to the community of Amish farmers there, and suddenly we really had access to better product.”  Ten years ago, Caroline explained, farmers weren’t delivering to the city quite like they are now.  “We went to the Greenmarket and bought what we could,” she said, “but when it came down to it, there just wasn’t enough room in the car!  We really needed the farmers coming to us.” 

Marlow & Sons, Andrew and Mark’s second restaurant, opened next door to Diner in 2004.  Both locations serve lunch and dinner, on tables in and outdoors.  Caroline and I sat inside, where the warm lighting reflects off bottle-lined shelves and mirrors, and chalkboards list the offerings of the day.  The July 11th menu included a soup of Kale-Ricotta Tortellini in a Vegetable Broth with Parm & Basil; a list of sandwiches: French Egg Salad, Italiano, Pressed Fontina, and Pork Tenderloin; and various plates, including toast with house-made nut butter, quiche, charcuterie, chicken liver pate, and a market salad.  There were cheeses available from New York, Virginia, and Oregon.  For desert: house made strawberry ice cream with a brown butter cornmeal cookie.

To reach Marlow & Sons’ back room of tables, one must walk through a shop in the front, where they sell cheeses from upstate New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, local honeys and yogurt, milk, fruit, vegetables, granola, and pastries and sandwiches made in house.  They also carry Fra’Mani sausages from Berkeley, imported mozzarella, various specialty sea salts, Rancho Gordo beans and lentils, pastas, olive oils, grains, coffee, popcorn, canned tomatoes, and olives.  Asked how these products are selected for the shop, Caroline explained that the offerings cater to the needs of a kitchen, but reflect the increasing availability of local products.  “We want to have products that complement our regional food, like olive oil, and sea salts, but we are also switching out everything that’s not local as it becomes available from nearby.”

The shop also sells the Diner Journal, a publication that was, until recently, written and designed entirely by the staff of the two restaurants.  Originally created in lieu of a cookbook, the quarterly magazine contains articles about various food products, recipes, and related artwork.  Writing for the journal “helps all of us think on a much broader level,” Caroline mentioned.  “I learn something every time we put it together.  Like the practice of grafting an apple tree.  I just never thought about it, but you have to graft very tree!  That’s so much work!”  

The crew at Marlow & Sons and Diner has supported New Amsterdam Market since the very first market event in 2005.  “I remember the first time I really understood the New Amsterdam Market vision for the Seaport,” Caroline said.  “I was immediately sold, from that first minute.  It’s ridiculous that New York doesn’t have a permanent market like in San Francisco and London.”  Caroline recognized that she doesn’t normally work at markets, but that she feels “the New Amsterdam Market serves our interest in extending our community.  Ultimately,” she said, “the individuals here at Marlow, and those working to create the Market…we all really believe in each other.”  She remembered the heirloom apples, chocolate producers, and Hamptons honey of the first New Amsterdam Market, at the Municipal Building.  Marlow donated house-made ice cream.  “But that day was more about individual producers promoting their own businesses,” she said.  “This past Sunday [June 29th], it felt more like the vendors came together, to promote the Market itself.”

Caroline emphasized the community element of the “sustainability” she feels will be encouraged by the New Amsterdam Market.  A strong force behind her commitment to regional foods is a feeling of loyalty to New York State.  “I’m looking to New York to rally together,” she said, “to have it’s own economy of food production.  This city forgets it’s connected to the state!  New York State is struggling, and has been for a long time.  I will always choose stuff from New York, even if New Jersey is closer.”  Raised in upstate New York, Caroline admits to thinking her hometown Poughkeepsie “was the worst!” when she was growing up.  Now of course, she wishes New Yorkers would take more pride in the food produced in their State.  She is sure the farmers and producers in the state would rally, if there might be a consortium with a place, a Market of sorts, where the economy could thrive and the community might gain strength.

Read Full Post »

Big Apples

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) recently launched a new site, Organic on the Green: A Blog to Feed the Organic Revolution in Campus Dining.  Participants in the blog are assigned a date to post an article, and OTA hopes of course that collaborative discussions will follow.  The following article was written for the new blog, and is being posted simultaneously here and on Organic on the Green.

 

New York University has seven dining halls, which many of our 20,000 undergraduate students never use after the expiration of their freshman year meal plan.  Until my sophomore spring, while concentrating my academics on Northeast agriculture and sustainable farming, I had no intention of getting involved with the food system at NYU.  Having matriculated to the school with the hopes of avoiding a collegiate “bubble,” I saw working on school dining as a project that would cut me off from the bigger picture, even just our regional food system, which I felt demanded more immediate attention.

 

As any New Yorker might begrudgingly tell you, however, NYU is a sizeable part of a “bigger” picture.  Not only is the University one of the largest employers in New York, as well as the owner of substantial urban property, but it happens to spend quite a substantial sum of money: on food.  We purchase over 340,000 pounds of food per semester, worth about $4 million.  In 2006, a group of five Gallatin students researched and developed a Sustainability Assessment of NYU, in which they recognized (among other things) the immensity of that purchasing power.  The assessment pointed out that Aramark, our food service provider, “unfortunately has the worst record among national food services when it comes to purchasing local food,” although Sid Wainer, the company that provided about 12% of NYU’s produce, does deal with many local farmers.  Of course, any local food supply depends upon our Northeast growing season, but as the Sustainability Assessment highlighted, NYU could consistently prioritize organic, sustainably farmed products, and also take advantage of the seasonal abundance.  New York, the assessors explained, “has more farms than any other state on the Eastern seaboard.”  Their survey results explained that students would strongly support a dining hall dedicated to local and organic foods, and would even pay an additional $0.75 to $1/meal to eat there.  We could see the local bounty in the 46 Greenmarkets and 50 CSA sites throughout the boroughs.  We just didn’t have that food in our dining halls.

 

In 2006, the only identifiable “sustainable” products at NYU were local apples (a percentage of the total apples).  Through the efforts of student clubs, the Sustainability Task Force, and the increasingly open-minded Aramark: We now have 100% Fair Trade coffee.  Our fish is bought from Wild Edibles.  For the last academic year, one dining hall, Hayden, was devoted to providing as much local, organic, and/or Fair Trade food as possible.  About 32% of the food purchased for Hayden fell into one or more of these categories.  These changes came after considerable time at the drawing board: defining organic, defining local, prioritizing values, considering whether to set large goals or small, to resist collaboration with Aramark, or to set about working together.  Increased inter-school collaboration between students, particularly among participants in the Real Food Summit last fall, has facilitated this work immensely.

 

The Food and Purchasing Subcommittee of the Sustainability Task Force requested purchasing data from Dining Services this Spring, and the data received (pounds purchased, dollars spent, Hayden vs. other dining hall comparisons) is now being evaluated.  The F&P Committee also developed sustainable cateringcriteria, and Aramark is now offering an organic catering option.

 

Clearly, we have a ways to go before inciting a full-scale agrarian revolution at NYU.  We have gardens, but no farms, local apples, but plenty of bananas, and when it comes down to it, we young farmers and farm-appreciators of the school could simply eat elsewhere.  But instead we are working towards change, recognizing that our style must be rather like the tortoise: slow but steady.  The steady is the most important thing to maintain, a quality rare in rotating student populations, but I have an immensely excited trust that local, organic foods will steadily increase in our dining halls, and our pace of change may even quicken in the coming years.  Ever since the Real Food Summit last Fall, since the chairing of the Food and Purchasing Subcommittee by a freshman this Spring, since the launching of this website this week…it has been clear to me that students working on changing their institutional food systems are no longer alone.  We have begun to help each other!  We’re recognizing a big picture.  We’re reaching far outside our own academic spheres.  And we show no signs of retreat. 

Read Full Post »