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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Moral Voices gets behind the scenes at Dewick to explore food justice

At 6 p.m. in Dewick-MacPhie Dining Hall, most students are too distracted by the bustle of the dinner rush to think about the kitchens. However, several students took a closer look at this rarely seen side of Dewick last week on a tour sponsored by Moral Voices, a Hillel-run social justice group. The tour was part of Moral Voices' 2012-2013 theme of food justice, which also included a lecture by Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation" in November.

According to junior Rose Pollard, the chair of Moral Voices, the tour was meant to prepare the groups' members for an upcoming event on Wednesday, which will explore cafeteria food in low-income schools. "I thought having a tour of Dewick would be a good … information session for people to compare a large-income institution to [one] with less resources," she said.

Food for Thought, an on-campus group that aims to discuss and help implement improvements in Tufts Dining's food awareness, also participated in Monday's tour. Food For Thought, which is part of the Tufts Sustainability Collective, focuses on the growth, production and consumption of food through events such as Food Week in October.

"There's been a lot of interest in seeing what actually goes on behind the dining hall, and a lot of members of Food for Thought have voiced interest in the past to see what goes on just so we have a basic knowledge, because a lot of the projects that we want to do revolve around our immediate food sources," freshman Sara Gardner, director of Food for Thought, said.

The tour began in the delivery room, made its way through the central preparation kitchen, which is located in Dewick's basement and distributes vegetables and baked goods to both Carmichael and Dewick Dining Halls, and ended in Dewick's smaller cooking kitchen.The group watched staff prepare vegetables, and followed John Fisher, unit manager at Dining Services, through the bakery and into walk-in refrigerators. Smells of fresh food wafted through every room, from the recently baked brownies in the delivery room to the onions being chopped right in the preparation area.

Many students on the tour were impressed by the amount of effort and thought that Dining Services brings, particularly in terms of environmental efficiency. Since implementing the latest system of composting and recycling, Tufts Dining Services has reduced waste by 60 percent, according to Fisher. Dining workers measure out the amount of food necessary for the day as exactly as possible in order to reduce the amount of excess.

"That's the motto of the food business these days: no waste. Waste is money," Fisher said.

Gardner was especially impressed by Dining Services' effort to make changes according to students' desires. "A lot of people complain . . .'Oh, our dining hall's not doing enough to reduce the waste stream; more compost,' but they do everything in their power and their budget to do so," Gardner said.

Gardner added that Tufts Dining Services' thoughtfulness aligns well with the goals of Food for Thought. "A lot of what Food for Thought … advocates for is mindfulness. And nothing more than to think about what you're putting in your body," she said. "And just solely like, the volume of thought that Dining Services puts into the production of this food is great." Fisher noted that despite its enthusiasm for environmental awareness, Dining Services is unable accommodate every demand. "If we had a perfect world, everything we'd buy would be sustainable, local, fresh, organic. Some of those things are realistic, some are not … we're talking about volumes that we use here. Tufts campus feeds about 15,000 meals a day," he said.

Julie Lampie, a nutrition marketing specialist, said that she works with Dining Services to help them serve food that follows the most recent nutrition trends.

"During the '80s and '90s, with the low-fat trend which was really to go as low fat as you can, we basically had low-fat desserts, low-fat cake. We eliminated all of that because it's no longer the trend," she said. "It used to be 20 percent or below fat in your diet, now they recommend 30 to 35 percent, so it's the type of fat. We [also] used to use hydrogenated shortening ... now we use 100 percent trans-fat free canola oil."

Pollard was also impressed by the amount of work done by Dining Services workers. "It really struck me how few people, how few workers per station there really are. [There are] four workers for all of the bakery and six workers for all of the vegetable prep which is not only for Dewick but the entire campus and catering," she said.

Pollard also encouraged her fellow members to keep this level of manpower in mind when they observe low-income schools' cafeterias.

"This concept of making it from scratch, making it from kitchen - I think people will really be struck by that not really being the case in … public schools, how that's not really possible," she said. Gardner said she would like other students to keep Dining Services' efforts in mind before they ask for more improvements.

"I would love for people to learn more about it and sort of take away more appreciation for what the dining hall does [and] maybe change the way that they think about food and eat food and take food from the dining hall to also change that side of it because the production side does all it can," she said.