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Buy Local

By Jennifer Gabrielle ’06

Smith College Dining Services is launching a plan to buy more local products in an effort to encourage more environmentally sustainable practices in the campus community.

The college routinely buys products through a network of farms in western Massachusetts; the oldest connection with a local supplier is with Outlook Farms in Westhampton, where Smith has purchased its apples since 1945. More recent purchases include Fair Trade/Organic coffee from Indigo Coffee Roasters in Florence, beginning three years ago, and dairy products from High Lawn Dairy in Lee, since August 2005. In addition, the college buys produce from a Vermont-based company, Black River, which provides information on each delivery invoice about which products are grown locally.

But Smith wants to do more to improve current collaborations while forging new connections with local farmers and proprietors. To expand the network, 55 local growers, distributors and food service directors from the Five Colleges met in January and March. Among the local products represented were beef, goat cheese, honey and salad dressings.

The participants had many issues to address. “We had a list of questions and challenges” to explore, says Kathy Zieja, director of Dining Services. All of these were aired to ascertain mutual problems. “Most of it is in distribution,” Zieja says. Stops at 11 dining halls, the College Club and the Campus Center present a delivery nightmare because of time constraints and restrictions on the size of delivery trucks allowed on campus.

By this fall, Dining Services plans to purchase local eggs and honey and increase the volume of local produce purchases. At least 25 farmers are interested in working with the college, and several committees will continue to create a more comprehensive list of available local products and address such issues as distribution, volume and seasonal availability.

Buying local foods is just one of the many considerations in the broader sustainability work of the Green Team, a coalition of faculty, staff and students seeking to foster greater efficiency in preventing pollution and reducing the consumption of natural resources. The Green Team’s work encompasses many aspects of the college including transportation, waste management, construction and energy use.

Smith students involved in the initiative are working to promote a greater awareness of Dining Services’ efforts to support a sustainable community. “A lot of people like sustainability in theory,” says Marissa Drossos ’09, a member of the Five College Local Food Initiative, “but don’t really know what’s behind it.”

However, some campus residents have already taken note. Having lived in the Quad for three years, Suzi Switzer ’06 is now a head resident on Green Street; she says she observes less waste in this area of campus. “I think people here are more apt to use their travel mugs,” she says, and “people tend to sit down, have a meal,” instead of taking food to go in paper bowls and plates.

For more information on the Green Team and the college’s sustainability efforts, visit www.smith.edu/physplant/greenteam.

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