After biting into a juicy hamburger, many simply think about the delicious flavor of the meat, while others ponder where the ground beef came from.
Obviously it came from a cow, but what cow? Where did that cow graze? What did that cow feed on? Or, was that cow given any hormones or antibiotics?
The Office of Sustainability is making efforts to provide students with food made from local organic products, and it is also trying to give students information about where these products come.
Rachael Budowle, sustainability coordinator of dining services, said that she defines sustainability as using resources in a way that doesn’t affect the possibility for future generations to use those resources. Sustainability, she said, can be conceptualized as a stool with three legs: environmental, economic and equity.
Reaching ultimate sustainability is something that can never be achieved.
“It’s something that we’re constantly working toward, and we’re always having to reexamine what we’re doing,” Budowle said, “so I don’t know if we’d ever get to the point where we’d say, ‘Great! Dining services is 100 percent sustainable.’”
The position of sustainability coordinator has only been in existence for a year and a half, but Budowle believes that progress has been made early on.
“I think we’ve made big strides in a very short amount of time,” she said, “but we definitely have a long way to go. And that’s just sort of the nature of sustainability.”
Sustainability programs under Budowle’s watch carry out two major functions: waste examination, and local and sustainable food procurement. The first step is determining how to defer waste to proper areas from the landfill. This may involve composting or utilizing more reusable containers.
The second function determines how to phase more sustainable foods into the dining halls. The Farms and Fields Project in Owens Food Court, which started in January 2009, is a good example of that, according to Budowle.
“The Farms and Fields Project is our signature local and organic sustainable venue,” Budowle said. “That is a shop where students can go to Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, and that’s where they know they can get local, organic or sustainable food at any time.”
The Sustainable Food Corps is a student group consisting of 20 members that was started last fall. The members discuss what it means to call food sustainable and what sustainable practices Tech can embrace. Kati Span, SFC President and senior human nutrition, foods and exercise major, believes that the venue will help add clarity to students’ decisions on food selections.
“I feel like it really offers an outlet for communication. Students don’t really have the opportunity to really understand where their food comes from, and Farms and Fields is a great way for it to kind of be right out there on the map and right within the food that we normally eat, like at Owens Food Court,” Span said. “It’s something new — it’s something different and that can be very scary for students. But I think it’s necessary because it shows that Tech is taking initiative in the sustainable movement, and I think that can be really respectable to your consumers.”
Elena Dulys, junior environmental policy and planning major worked as an intern in spring 2009 for dining services. Under the previous sustainability coordinator Andy Sarjahani, Dulys helped start the Farms And Fields project, dealt with feedback issues, distributed information and assisted with general marketing.
“Not many people knew about it,” she said. “The food was a little more expensive so you had to tell people why. Generally among the student population, there isn’t a ton of knowledge in terms of food sustainability issues.”
One of the primary local products that is offered at the shop is grass-fed beef from Grayson Natural Foods, LLC, located in Grayson County, Va. Meat can be bought year-round because it can be frozen, and it is served at Farms and Fields at least once a week.