Dining Services locally grown program to expand

Over the past year Dining Services at the University of Massachusetts has purchased 20 percent of its produce from area farms as part of a locally grown program.

Within two years they hope to be purchasing as much as 25 percent from local farms. A farmer’s market was opened in the Campus Center this semester as part of the University’s effort to expand the locally grown plan.

Supplying all four UMass dining halls takes enough food to feed the 13,000 students that are on a campus meal plan. To put this into perspective, it takes nearly 2,000 pounds of potatoes to make mashed potatoes for just one night.

The food purchased from these farms range from brown eggs and ice cream to apples and various vegetables. When the temperature drops the dining hall menu is adjusted “to serve more seasonable vegetables such as squash, potatoes, and local hot tomatoes,” said Director of Dining Services Ken Toong.

Toong also said Dining Services is lucky, because a lot of local produce is kept in cold storage facilities to increase shelf-life.

Stickers reading, “Be a local hero – Buy locally grown,” promoting buylocalfood.com can be found at many places around campus and in the community.

Dining Services receives the stickers from the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA). UMass joined the organization in the fall of 2005. Directors of the UMass Dining Services have been working hard to make students aware of the locally grown food available to them every day.

The locally grown program began five years ago. As the program progresses, coordinators set goals to increase the amount and the variety of locally grown foods.

In the future the Dining Services plan to add a local beef program and explore organic farming methods through the possibility of contracting with local farmers, according to Toong.

More information about the locally grown program can be found on the UMass Dining Services Web site, where a blog is also available in an effort to keep students updated. In an entry from October 2006, Toong explained the importance of the locally grown program.

“Supporting the local community and economy is great for UMass and the food can be fresher as well,” wrote Toong.

Some of the local farms that have participated in the program are Diemand farm, North Hadley Sugar Shack, Warm Color Apiary, Cook Farm, and Joe Czajkowski’s farm.

Jennifer Bergen can be reached [email protected]

Ashley Coulombe can be reached at [email protected]