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Sara Gardner & Mae Humiston | Let’s Talk About Food

Conscientious campus consumption

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 08:11

As college kids, we all like to eat. Not only that, but we also like to eat a lot. With unlimited dining plans and to−go cafes lining our campuses, it seems that food is always readily available, whenever and wherever we may be. But what does the pattern of consumption at Tufts mean in the greater context of consumption as a whole? Here we run into one of the central questions that drive the greater food movement.

Here at Tufts, we are lucky to have a phenomenally well−kept and well−informed dining service that works tirelessly to cater to the students. Unlike many other colleges and universities, our on−campus cafeterias stock a wide array of vegetarian and vegan options and have taken initiatives to enhance the “green−ness” of the dining options through events like the Story of Bananas dinner and frequent Sustainability Dinners. This level of involvement is laudable. And what’s more, Dining Services is always open to suggestions and loves the input of enthusiastic students.

There is, however, always room for improvement. While our campus caterers supply us with healthy and ecologically−friendly options, not all of the choices available are the most sustainable — namely, the meat and fish products used in the dining halls. That said, this is no fault of our dining services here at Tufts. Rather, it’s indicative of the quality standards of food suppliers as a whole. Dining Services actively works to resolve this sourcing problem. There exists a simple solution to this dilemma: that students make local and sustainable choices. Tufts Dining is, after all, a business, one that responds to the demands of its consumers — who, in this case, happen to be students. In this way, Tufts students can play an integral role in enacting the switch to on−campus sustainability. If students demand local, sustainable food choices, Dining Services will respond in a positive way. Still, what exactly are the options for the activist foodie on campus?

To start, students should opt for food choices — within those that are already available here at Tufts — that come with labels like “local/seasonal,” “organic,” “fair trade” and “Rainforest Alliance Certified.” While these labels do not necessarily certify complete ecological sustainability, they do imply a greater level of environmental respect and they are definitely preferable over their unlabeled alternatives. Many prepared dishes in the dining halls come with labels, so be sure to read them!

Furthermore, the Medford/Somerville area has a number of local, fresh farmers’ markets and CSA shares that are ready to supply environmentally−conscious students with beautiful, delicious produce. Options like these are ideal for students looking to decrease the size of their “food−print” and to expand their palate with a variety of interesting and yummy fruits, vegetables and herbs. Outside of the Medford/Somerville area, the greater Boston area is also home to a myriad of farmers’ markets, urban gardens and local/seasonal food sources — see Massfarmersmarkets.org. Moreover, both Medford/Somerville and Boston are home to tons of restaurants that eagerly showcase locally−sourced and seasonally grown ingredients in their dishes.

But where you choose to go is completely up to you! You can start small here on campus by making educated choices and asking thoughtful questions about the sourcing and preparation of your food, or you can just as easily start big by researching sustainable restaurants in greater Boston and taking a local food tour of the area. The wonderful thing about the resources available to us here at Tufts is that they are virtually endless. All it takes is an open mind and an empty stomach to start making substantial changes to our relationship with food.

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Sara Gardner is a freshman who has not yet a declared a major. She can be reached at Sara.Gardner@tufts.edu. Mae Humiston is a senior majoring in anthropology. She can be reached at Mae.Humiston@tufts.edu.

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