Posted on September 22, 2008 by Dylan Anderson

It’s not every day cafeteria staff get a standing ovation but that�s exactly what happened when Augustana Campus officially started its annual theme.

It’s not every day cafeteria staff get a standing ovation but that’s exactly what happened when the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus officially kicked off its annual theme, From Field to Fork, with a local food supper held in the cafeteria. With Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – a Year of Food Life, as inspiration, the theme committee, along with the Augustana Cafeteria, decided to hold a meal comprised of food grown, prepared, and cooked ‘locally.’

From the producers who donated food for the massive meal and the students and staff who shucked corn to the individuals who organized the event, there were many who deserved kudos for the excellent repast. However, the light shone most brightly on those who usually remain unsung heroes. Last night’s meal was not an easy thing to pull off. Not only did the cafeteria staff have to prepare and cook food for more than the usual number of people, they had to find food from the region. It seemed only fitting that they received a standing ovation by the students, staff, and community members.

Across North America, universities are taking steps to increase the local and regional share of the food consumed on campus. To some, it’s about being more ecologically-minded and environmentally-friendly – reducing the vast distances that food items often travel. To others, it’s about supporting food producers close to home or helping to achieve greater food security. To many, locally produced vegetables, fruit and meat taste better. Whatever the motivation, eating locally is easier said than done – especially for a university cafeteria.

To that end, Augustana Campus has announced it will participate with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development in an institutional pilot project on local and regional food sourcing. While the details of the project are still under discussion, it is intended as a practical learning experience on issues such as supply, health regulations and cost.

“It’s a challenging prospect to feed 350 or more students, three times a day, but that also means we have some leverage to make a difference,” said Dean Roger Epp. “This initiative makes sense for us given our campus location. It’s exciting to think that the impact of this initiative could be province-wide.”

As a result of the project, the Campus will have a better idea of how much of the food served in its cafeteria is produced locally and regionally, and what realistic targets it can set to increase that share. It will also build the kind of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with producers that are necessary to achieve those targets.

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