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Alfred University in the market for locally grown food
1/14/09

Alfred University is launching an effort to buy and serve locally grown or locally processed food to its students.

AVI Fresh, a division of AVI Foodsystems, Inc., which provides dining services on the AU campus, wants to purchase as much produce, meat, eggs, cheese and milk as it can from local growers, producers and suppliers.

John Dietrich, director of dining services at AU, knows it may be several years before he can offer a substantial percentage of locally or even regionally grown or produced foodstuffs on the AU campus. He will be looking for everything from fruits and vegetables to meat, poultry and cheese.

“It will take some time before local farmers and producers can meet our demand,” acknowledges Dietrich, whose buying habits to meet student needs give a new meaning to “buying in bulk.”

With 78 percent of Alfred University’s 2,300 students living – and eating – on campus, Dietrich and his crew prepare and serve approximately 28,000 meals and that’s just during the academic year from late August to early May. During the summer months, when the campus hosts summer school and summer camps, participants also eat on campus.

“Cornell Cooperative Extension has been helpful in providing us with lists of potential suppliers and tips for us as we move forward,” said Kathy Woughter, vice president for Student Affairs. She said by announcing the program now, the University hopes area farmers can plan for the coming growing season.

Woughter said the decision to buy more locally or regionally produced foods is the latest facet to the University’s green initiative. “Our surveys tell us that our students – particularly our women students – are more interested in environmental issues than their peers at other four-year institutions,” said Woughter. “A new student organization, GreenAlfred, has galvanized students to coordinate their support of environmental causes.”

It was GreenAlfred that partnered with Dining Services and the Environmental Studies students to eliminate trays in the dining hall, a move that has already reduced the amount of food waste, cut down on the amount of cleaning chemicals used and generated actual savings. (See http://www.alfred.edu/pre...)

This year, GreenAlfred is leading a campus–wide recycling committee that has analyzed the University’s waste stream, developed a recycling coordinator internship, and has increased the number of collection bins on campus.

Alfred University’s own strategic plan espouses more environmentally friendly practices at the University, said Woughter. “The plan includes a focus on implementing procedures and facility upgrades that promote environmental well-being on campus,” said Woughter. Additionally, President Charles M. Edmondson signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment (www.presidentsclimatecomm...), a further indication of the University’s support for “green” initiatives.

Alfred University has a role model in its “Buy Local” initiative at Kenyon College in Ohio, where AVI Foodsystems also operates the dining services. Since Kenyon College launched its efforts, it has been able to increase the percentage of locally grown or produced food it serves from less than 10 percent to more than 30 percent. Its goal is to reach 50 percent.