We were a bit shorter on numbers this time around but were lucky enough to steal a few new faces from the Super Bowl, one of which was our special guest Margaret Hoffman, manager of our local farmers market @ 114th St. and Broadway Ave. There’s lots below because it was a very informative meeting that produced much for everyone to think about in anticipation of starting to plan our course(s) of action next Sunday…
Maddie Spare of EarthCo attended the meeting for garden talk. We didn’t have time to cover much, but recognized the need for further discussion to determine who wants to work on a community garden besides FSP members and Maddie, including possibly other EarthCo members and Columbia EcoReps. We then need to discuss what shape we want the garden to take, i.e. size, location, functionality, accessibility, funding, activity, etc. so that we can take concrete ideas to Nilda Mesa of the Environmental Stewardship Office, whom Maddie has contacted in the past regarding the garden. Rumor also has it that there is an unused greenhouse on top of Schermerhorn…something we should explore.
We are also waiting to hear from EarthCo on their Sustainable Seafood campaign so we can determine if and how we could or should be involved.
We spent most of our time gleaning as much information as possible from Margaret, who provided a wealth of information both from the farmers market perspective and the Dining Services side, given her former employment in Sage Dining Services at Teachers College.
Summary of what we learned:
Greenmarket—The Greenmarket is under the auspices of the Council on the Environment of NYC (CENYC, see link on blog) which is part of the Mayor’s Office and hence linked into the PlaNYC campaign. Though food is not its own category within PlaNYC, open community space, climate change, and energy are, which are in turn linked to food and hence within our purview. We can work with the Greenmarket in a variety of ways, including:
· Margaret can help connect us to farmers, of which there are almost 200 under the Greenmarket umbrella, which is useful both for sourcing food (identifying suppliers) and for publicity.
· CUFSP can set up a table at the market to promote local agriculture, advertise CUFSP and our work, and otherwise serve our mission. Sunday afternoon is prime time for market traffic.
CC’s Food System
· Columbia Dining Services tracks expenditures, quantities used, student meal plan participation, etc. We can and should tap those stats.
· CC has 5 different operating dining groups.
· Columbia does not have a Food Service Company that arranges their meal plans, but Barnard does (Aramark). However Columbia orders through Metro-Sysco, which is essentially a middle person. Ideally, we cut out the middle person and get dining services to order directly from the farmer, which provides the best economic return for the farmer. If not, our challenge is to get CU to pressure Metro-Sysco to purchase from our chosen purveyors. Barnard will be another matter (research needed).
· Dining Services is most concerned with the $$$ of their operations, but funds are dependent on student participation in the meal plan. That matters greatly to us in two ways:
o 1) If local food items or locations are popular, more students may participate in the meal plan or frequent a particular location and hence increase dining revenue (which can go into buying higher quality, sustainable food) and increase awareness.
o 2) If student participation declines, dining services will feel pressured to capitulate to student demands.
Ideas for infiltrating CU’s food system—Margaret suggested an initial target of purchasing 5% of foods locally. From there we can work towards the Real Food Challenge goal of 20%.
Designate one meal as the weekly “local food” meal, such as brunch.
Convert one dining location to serving primarily local food, such as Ferris Booth.
Designate one item at a time to be brought in locally for all dining locales.
Right now, our top candidates are eggs, apples, and possibly onions and potatoes.
Apples and apple cider at John Jay might still be local as they were in the past, but we have yet to confirm this.
Host tastings, farmer visits, cooking demos, and a mini-market on campus; give Farmers Market tours
Offer students the opportunity to buy into a CSA (for explanation click here: Community Supported Agriculture)
FSP is aware of one CSA currently serving Columbia students.
Also, check out the links on the right hand column of the blog for helpful resources.