What we eat can connect us to other people, as well as to the places where our food comes from. For these reasons, Middlebury places a strong emphasis on local food, as well as composting. Dining Services sources food products from 50 Vermont food producers and also purchases small amounts of fresh produce from the student-run organic farm. Twenty percent of food at Middlebury is source from Vermont, and we divert nearly all food waste from ending up in the landfill through our composting program.
Dining at Middlebury
With Dining Services providing upwards of 7,000 meals a day, and working from a food budget of $4.2 million dollars, there is a lot of food to order. Charlie Sargent, chief purchaser for Dining Services, is committed to building relationships that support local food producers. The college’s most recent food vendor bid request emphasized Middlebury Dining’s commitment to purchasing locally produced products. In the bid letter announcement it specifically states "Middlebury College Dining Services strives to support the local economy by purchasing locally produced products and some items will be specified as such.”
Reinhart Burlington Foodservice was awarded this bid and regularly supplies the college with food products from over 50 Vermont food producers.
Dining Services works directly with farmers and local produce distributors to increase the amount of local produce used in the dining halls, recognizing the potential income they can offer farmers by steering more of the College’s annual produce purchases toward local growers. They also work with the Middlebury College Organic Farm to purchase seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Locally grown and in-season fruits and vegetables, maple syrup and local dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream are regularly provided in the dining halls.
Composting & Waste Reduction
On a national average, food waste comprises upwards of 7% of the municipal solid waste stream. But not at Middlebury College. A collaborative effort between Dining Services and Facilities Management turns nearly 300 tons of food waste into rich piles of compost for use in greenhouses and gardens, and as soil amendment on campus. Food prep scraps, postconsumer food residuals, waxed cardboard, paper towels, napkins and food prep waste paper—some 70% of the College's food waste—is composted. Plate waste (post consumer food residuals) is run through a pulper to remove excess water.
Even when Dining Services moves outdoors for picnics or large College celebrations, the compost program maintains momentum. Approximately 90% of the waste generated by these large outdoor events goes directly into the College's composting system instead of the landfill. Paper plates, napkins, paper cups and biodegradable trash bag liners are all compostable. Depending on the event, Dining Services determines the feasibility of using silverware instead of plastic whenever possible. In the past the College used biodegradable utensils made from cornstarch; however, the product line was discontinued.
Student Involvement & Learning Opportunities
Dining Services works with faculty and students to further learning opportunities related to food. This collaboration includes working with the organic farm and assisting in a project to map the distance food travels to reach Middlebury dining halls.
Since 2003 Dining Services has worked with the Middlebury College Organic Farm. This student-initiated garden sells small quantities of freshly harvested produce throughout the growing months to Dining Services, who continue their operations for the renowned Language Schools offered at Middlebury throughout the summer.
Dining Services has partnered with Champlain Orchards to explore the use of greenhouses to provide local fruits and vegetables during winter months, and offer students a resource for research opportunities.
Linking academics to operations, Dining Services worked with students and faculty to map the distance food travels from farm to plate. Using Google Earth, this group mapped the ingredients of specific Middlebury meals, including the chicken parmesan dinner.
Other classroom links to food occur in the Environmental Studies Senior Seminar (ES 401) projects. Recent projects focusing on locally grown food include:
- Eating Local in Addison County: A Cookbook and Directory
- Local Food and the Cornwall Elementary School
- Got Local? The State of Local Food Production and Distribution in Addison County
- A Multimedia Production and Economic Analysis in Support of Local Foods for Institutions
Recent food related courses include:
- The Middlebury Organic Farm is currently growing a basil crop for the dining services to make and serve pesto.
- The Environmental Council formed a Food subcommittee to investigate Middlebury College's definition of local and options for potentially increasing local food purchases.