Even in the Ivy League, college cafeterias offer up flavorless meat, rubbery pizza, and weirdly crunchy brownies for dessert. But as young consumers become increasingly conscious of health and sustainability, the $4.6 billion business of college food service is beginning to respond.
At Yale, for example, 80% of students surveyed last year claimed that they would eat on campus more often if the dining halls served sustainable food, and the university has consequently developed a new recipe for student dining. For an added cost of 80 cents per meal – meals on each of which the university was spending only about $2 to begin with – campus dining services now proudly serve organic cupcakes and sustainable granola.
Meanwhile, Yale and other colleges are focusing on local produce, some of them even introducing small organic farms on or near campus. Yale Farm, for one, grew out of a group of concerned faculty and students called the Yale Sustainable Food Project; its produce is featured at campus special events as well as at the New Haven Farmer’s market.
It hasn’t always been easy, though. The organic pizza Yale now serves took a year to perfect because it required a complete overhaul of the established food preparation routine. And even though the ingredients – which can now all be traced to local farmers – are cheaper, additional labor costs have raised the total cost of the pizza.
But it’s flying off the stainless steel serving shelves. The food that typically runs out first in the dining halls, attests Yale Sustainable Food Project co-director Melina Shannon-DiPietro, are the dishes with the Sustainable Food Project seal of approval. Latecomers risk being stuck with the mystery meat.
Source: USA Today