If you had to plan a meal for 2,000 people where all the food was locally produced, could you do it? During lunch this past Tuesday, Bon Appétit conglomerates all across the nation participated in the Eat Local Challenge, an event in which all food served, even down to the oil it was cooked in, came from within 150 miles of each respective location.
The undertaking showcased Bon Appétit’s dedication to sustainable, local food, while nurturing the connection between local farmers and Carleton students.
“It’s a lofty goal in concept to feed a college for one meal, with food all within 150 miles, but once you actually see it in action, it doesn’t seem like it’s that hard to do after all,” said Ellie Youngblood ‘14 who helped with the event and is actively involved with the Carleton Farm.
The Eat Local Challenge began in 2005 after the CEO and COO of Bon Appétit, Fedele and Michael Bauccio, decided to promote Bon Appétit’s aim of a sustainable food service with a national lunch supporting the local growers near each location. With the exception of salt, all ingredients had to be locally grown and harvested. After the first challenge, the event became an annual celebration.
This year, a special emphasis was placed on serving local fish native to each region; at Carleton, trout from Wisconsin streams were offered.
Michael Delcambre, executive chef of Bon Appétit at Carleton, said, “It’s really fascinating to see it after six, seven years… and it’s just as important and a lot more farmers appreciate what we do, and want in on bringing their wares closer to where they live.”
He also pointed out the value that locally bought food had over food transported long distances: “The food is better, a tomato tastes like a tomato and it wasn’t picked early so it could sit on a truck.”
Students seemed to agree. “It was amazing, the food was really good,” said Sarah Abdel-Jelil ‘16.
Lunch food included goods from many different local farms, such as Hasting Co-op Creamery, Laughing Loon Farm, and the Carleton Farm. In addition, farmers from Ferndale Market and Shepard Ways Farms set up stands and were available to talk to students.
“One of the unique things about the Carleton Bon Appétit is that they recognize that we’re doing something different and they see value in free-range, antibiotic-free turkey,” explained John Peterson, a third generation farmer from Ferndale Market.
Chefs from Bon Appétit will often inspect farms before they agree to do business with them to ensure that sustainable farming practices are being employed. “We’re not just going to buy local just because it’s down the street. We want to make sure that they’re treating the land right,” said Delcambre.
One aspect of the Eat Local challenge is the connection that it helps build between Carleton students and the local food shed. Many farms in the area have established lasting connections with Carleton, as students often go to volunteer or observe local farms.
Jodi Ohlsen Read, head cheese-maker for Shepard’s Way Farms, said, “being a cheese-maker I’m fairly isolated, my work is often solitary, so it’s nice to meet the people who are enjoying what you make and hear the appreciation for local farmers.”
Students welcomed the event and many had rave-reviews about the meals served. “Eat Local at the LDC was amazing,” said Zach Lynn ’14. “The food was really good. Putting bacon on fish is always a good idea.”
Bon Appétit will continue to host these events and welcomes the challenge of coordinating with farmers on a more regular basis. The next Eat Local Challenge will be held around the same time next year.