By Carleigh Reynolds
Eating local on campus
Hello, Ravens! It’s me, Carleigh, your Campus Food Ambassador, resident food blogger, Instagram enthusiast, et cetera. I’m reporting to you live about the only thing that matters: lunch.
It’s important to reflect on your environmental footprint. Not just because Earth Hour and Earth Day are coming up on March 24th and April 22nd, but because it’s important to ensure that the world is a safe and healthy place to live. To do their part, Carleton has been implementing several sustainable initiatives over the last few semesters, including the arrival of eco-friendly packaging and the recycling stations at the Food Court.
Of course, being sustainable goes beyond biodegradable containers and knowing where to put your plastics. A huge part of being sustainable is buying locally because it means supporting producers in your community and reducing emissions that occur when food is transported. That’s where the Greenbelt Project comes in. I chatted with Adam Lariviere, Carleton’s Project Manager for the Greenbelt Fund Initiative and Food Science student, on this exciting campus project.
Carleigh: What is the Greenbelt Fund Project?
Adam: It’s a grant from the Greenbelt Fund, which is an organization that promotes local food and the Ontario Greenbelt. The project involves working with partners and stakeholders to implement a system that allows us to order directly from producers in the region. That’s ordering directly from farmers and co-op producers.
The cool part is we can go into an online portal and we can see what’s available, in the field, ready to be picked. With Carleton Mushroom Farms, we could go on and see they have 200 cases of white mushrooms, ready to be picked. We can say we want 20 cases of those and they won’t go harvest them until we’ve placed the order. So the food is never sitting in a warehouse somewhere, the producers aren’t scrambling to find a buyer, and we get the freshest product possible. It’s about creating opportunities for small, independent local producers and engaging with them in a sustainable way.
Carleigh: What does it mean to be the Project Manager for the Greenbelt Fund Initiative at Carleton?
Adam: My job as Project Manager is managing all of the moving pieces. That’s working with the partners, making sure the chefs have access to the information, ensuring that the products arrive on campus and get to the student’s plates, and ensuring we’re using the products as effectively as we can.
Carleigh: What brought you to Carleton?
Adam: I was a chef for a long time and also have been involved in programs that deal with food on a social level. Last year, I had a big life change and moved to Ottawa. I was involved in food policy and food security issues. I decided to pivot my career in that direction. I decided to go back to school to study food science to develop my knowledge and positively impact food systems in the future. It’s interesting to be back at school. I went to Carleton fifteen-twenty years ago to study aerospace engineering.
As a student, I care about the food on campus and what’s available. Having the opportunity to work with Carleton and the local food community in Ottawa and have positive impact on what’s available on campus has been an amazing experience.
Carleigh: How do you apply your study of food science to your job as Project Manager?
Adam: My goal with this project is to increase the availability of local products at Carleton. Applying the food science side, I have a better understanding of some of the issues that may arise in the process, like food safety, storage, transportation, and food handling. So when I’m engaging with producers, I speak their language and know what the risks are.
Carleigh: What are some of the changes that have been happening on campus as a result of this program?
Adam: When you go into the caf, a chalkboard is there. You’re able to see what was locally sourced that day. The products listed there have come through this project. Every day is different, depending on what we’ve purchased and how it’s incorporated into the menu items. We’ve gotten mushrooms from Carleton Mushroom Farms, beets from Forman Farms, honey from Clearydale Farms, and fresh apples from Hall’s Apple Market. All of them are within a 200-kilometer radius. These are things that we can’t get anywhere else.
The most consistent change is in the University Centre Food Court at Burger 101. We’ve started using St. Albert’s cheese curds in the poutine there. St. Albert’s is a local dairy co-op and they’re not far from the university. We are working with them to use their cheeses in other ways, like in catering products. It’s a local product and an excellent product.
Carleigh: What are some of the benefits to eating local?
Adam: In general, the products are fresher; they don’t have to travel long distances. When a product does have to travel a long distance, it is picked early so that it can ripen on the journey. But in this case, the product isn’t picked until we order it, so it’s as fresh as possible. In terms of the environmental aspect, it cuts down on food kilometers, so the environmental footprint is reduced. It supports local businesses and creates more resilient food systems.
If you’re itching to know more about the sustainability efforts being undertaken by Dining Services, or by Carleton in general, check out these links:
Remember, everyone plays a part in keeping the community and the planet sustainable. So ask questions about where your food is coming from, get informed, and get involved. Also, don’t leave the water running while you’re brushing your teeth.
Feeling enlightened? Or just hungry? Connect with me to share your thoughts just follow my food journey on Instagram.
Munch on, Ravens!
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