The hunt for quality food grown and processed as close to campus as possible has earned the University of Rochester a place as the first college in New York State to join the Pride of New York Program.
For four years, Dining Service has networked and negotiated to find food that pleases eaters' stomachs along with their sense of responsibility to promote local farmers and producers, and contribute to a more sustainable world. Bagels, quiche, herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, crackers, cider, and, of course, apples have local roots and are served throughout the River Campus.
"We had to break down the old distribution models to effectively buy local," said Cam Schauf, director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations. About 11 percent of total purchases now comes from local sources—up from almost 1 percent three years ago. Last year, for example, more than $500,000 was spent on those items, Schauf said.
Buying local also means that menus are built on the items you can get, he pointed out, not on what you'd like to have. Campus Executive Chef Mary Locke makes all the purchases for the River Campus and knows local distributors, caterers, and farmers.
But that doesn't mean going without when winter arrives. "There's still material available but it's grown indoors or with hydroponics," Schauf said. "You have to find different ways to deal with the off-season. How do we can and preserve local products? Who is warehousing them successfully?"
"The University of Rochester is serving as a role model for its students to buy and eat locally grown foods and supporting local agriculture," said Patrick Hooker, state agriculture commissioner, in announcing the designation. A special Club Rochester event from 4 to 6 p.m. today in Salon D of The Meliora will feature New York foods and beverages.
Being part of Pride of New York means educating people about that "brand" and using experts and resources around the state to improve the food offered on campus, Schauf explained. There's growing recognition nationally and internationally about the desire to buy from nearby producers because it reduces the use of fuel, provides fresh foods, benefits the local economy, and educates the public.
In addition to the current dining venues on River Campus, a new café-style option, called Connections, will open in early November when construction of the collaborative learning space in Rush Rhees Library is completed. The menu for Connections will concentrate on locally grown and produced foods.