UW-Eau Claire strives to use local food
With Earth Day coming up tomorrow, many businesses and food services are pushing to “go local.”
UW-Eau Claire is no different.
In the past three years, Blugold Dining General Manager Christian Wise said Eau Claire has made tremendous strides to include more local products in its cafeterias and food courts.
“I fully and strongly believe that we should use local products and I also fully and strongly believe that we should act in a sustainable fashion,” Wise said. “Our goal is to continue to make goals and to try our best in buying more and more local stuff.”
Wise added that in April of 2008, dining services on campus were using between 8 and 9 percent locally produced food; now, he said, that number has grown to around 18 percent.
In addition to local foods, Wise said Eau Claire places significantly higher than any other school in the UW System, in terms of composting.
“It’s like ranking professionals with amateurs,” Wise said. “We’re vastly more sustainable than many of the other schools that are comparable.”
Composting on campus, he said, has been a large part of his goals as general manager.
Student Body Vice President Phil Rynish said committing to sustainable food supplies is important, but the logistics aren’t that easy.
“We were looking into moving toward more self-operated food service,” Rynish said of his upcoming candidacy for next year’s student body president. “There’s obviously a lot that goes into that, and we’re a long ways from getting there, but I think that as we continue to move towards that, that would be something we’d like to see.”
Rynish said it’s about becoming carbon neutral, and a large part of that goal is to start purchasing locally to avoid shipping from far away.
Junior Katelyn Tschida is a member of the Foodlums, a club committed to raising awareness about eating and buying local food. One of things the organization does is maintain a small, sustainable garden in the Phillips courtyard.
Tschida said it would be great if Dining used their products, but the garden isn’t quite ready to support thousands of students.
“Right now, we have the garden to grow our own food, but to make it sustainable for them to use would be a lot more organization, and we’re not quite there yet,” she said.
Rynish said that even though it might be difficult to tread forward, it’s something he’s very interesting in trying to do.
“While we’re under the current Sodexo model, I think we’ll push and hopefully we’ll start getting a lot more local food here,” he said. “That’s more what people want to see.”
One thing that resonated from both Tschida and Wise is that it will take a larger student commitment to make substantial dents in having locally grown products as more of a viable option.
“People here at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are very frugal.” Wise said. “They don’t really like spending money if they don’t feel they have to. And buying locally, at least right now, I think we’re turning the corner on it.”
Tschida echoed the sentiment and added it’s the students’ responsibility to purchase local. The students, she said, have to ultimately make a commitment.
“I think if more people put their money into that, it would send a message to the school that this is something they value; that’s just how it goes,” Tshida said. “The strongest way you can give your message that you support local is by putting money into local.”