Food & Dining
Smith College Dining Services is committed to incorporating sustainable practices in its day-to-day operations and future goals, particularly in purchasing, recycling and waste management. As a department that interacts with most of the student body on a daily basis, Dining Services works to set a good example through sustainable initiatives and promotes ongoing educational collaboration with students in the hope that they will understand and value sustainable practices when they leave Smith College.
In the United States, ingredients for an average meal travel 1,500 miles. Transporting foods from other states and countries means trucks or planes haul the products for hundreds or even thousands of miles. To keep food fresh in transit and on the shelf, more packaging is needed, which adds to our landfills, and trucks must be refrigerated, which uses more fuel. By the time the food reaches the table, many nutrients have been lost, and little taste remains.
Smith Dining Services strives to buy locally grown products whenever possible, providing the best dining experience for students while encouraging sustainable practices. Many local farms raise crops without heavy use of pesticides and provide a better life for livestock. Buying locally supports the local economy and helps keep small family farms in business, thus preserving openspace and some of the best soil in the world.
Several years ago, Smith Dining Services joined CISA (Community in Support of Agriculture), a national organization that supports collaboration of local farmers with local institutions and restaurants. As a member, the college helps broaden support for local farmers and increase Smith's awareness of the importance of buying locally. A few of the ways that Smith buys locally:
- For Spring 2010, Smith is purchasing cage-free shell eggs.
- Fair trade/organic/kosher coffee has been used for the past seven years in student dining locations and is purchased from Indigo Coffee Company, based in nearby Florence, MA.
- Dairy products come from Guida Dairy, a family-owned and operated business in nearby New Britain, CT. All milk products come from cows that do not receive artificial growth hormones.
- Local, seasonal produce comes from local farmers as much as possible, given the quantities we must obtain. The majority of local produce comes from Outlook Farm in Westhampton, MA, where Dining Services has been purchasing apples for the past 60 years. What Outlook Farm cannot provide at their farm, they purchase from other local farmers and deliver to Smith twice weekly.
- The Five College food service directors meet monthly to discuss ways to incorporate sustainable practices into their daily operations and explore new ways to work together in purchasing more locally grown products.
- Black River Produce, located in Southern Vermont, is our other source for produce. They provide a list of current, locally grown products and note on their delivery invoices what is locally grown.
- In 2008-09, Dining Services began purchasing local honey for dining rooms from Apex Orchards in Shelburne Falls, MA.
Dining Services lists farms and the local produce offered on a link at the Dining Services menu Web site, which is updated weekly.
Recycling and re-using products can help undo some of the harmful processes in their manufacture, but cutting back on unnecessary waste conserves resources even more effectively.
- Dining Services has installed computers in all the kitchens to speed up communication and cut down on paper usage.
- Bulk dispensers reduce packaging materials in student dining rooms for juices, sodas, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and most cereals
- Dining Services encourages chefs to batch cook and cut down on food waste. Extra food is used creatively on the salad bar or incorporated into new dishes.
- We encourage students to take what they want but want what they take.
We re-use a wide variety of things in dining halls and encourage students to do the same:
- Black River, our produce company, delivers produce in heavy-duty cardboard boxes that are returned to them for reuse.
- Regular china, flatware and glasses are used in the dining rooms because they can be washed and reused.
- Reusable cleaning cloths have replaced disposable ones in the dining rooms and kitchens.
- Students are encouraged to use Tupperware and hot/cold plastic reusable cups if they wish to take food or beverages out of the dining rooms.
For five years, at Central Check-In, which opens the academic year, Dining Services has purchased and distributed to students insulated plastic mugs with lids for hot beverages or soups, as well as reusable nalgene and aluminum water bottles. Dining Services discontinued bottled water at the "Grab and Go" dining location and installed extra water spigots. We encourage students to bring their reusable water bottles to this and other dining locations to fill up.
What started as a pilot project in 2008 with two Smith kitchens has now grown to include most dining locations. Five Smith kitchens are sending food waste to a licensed local farm where it is turned into compost and used to make more food.
Dining Services' "grab and go" locations use biodegradable flatware, napkins and containers. These products, along with biodegradable trash can liners, have also been used for the past five years at larger campus events. Dining Services purchased and distributed recyclable, "to go" tote bags the last two years for the students to use & reuse for their "grab & go" items. Dining Services eliminated the use of all "to go" paper and plasticware in their other residential dining locations and encourages students who need to take an occasional meal replacement with them to bring their own "meal-sized" container.
- Dining Services staff separates and recycles cardboard, paper, glass, cereal boxes and plastic in all the kitchens.
- Paper dinner napkins in student dining rooms are made from recycled paper.
- Grease from kitchens is gathered weekly and recycled.
- Dining Services has composting programs at Cutter/Ziskind, Chase, Tyler, King/Scales, Cushing-Emerson, Morrow-Wilson, Comstock-Wilder, Hubbard and Lamont houses. Compostable pre- and post-consumer food waste is collected twice weekly and distributed to local farms in Westhampton, MA. The program will expand to other dining locations in the future.