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Eat Local Challenge Celebrates Sourcing and Sustainability

Brown Dining Services held this year’s Eat Local Challenge on Sept. 29 with the aim of improving transparency and encouraging support for local vendors.

By
Contributing Writer
Thursday, October 15, 2020

COVID-19 affected the logistics of the annual Eat Local Challenge, but many local producers still worked to supply their ingredients for this year’s menu which highlighted the products of New England food producers.

Brown Dining Services hosted the annual Eat Local Challenge Sept. 29 to promote the work of New England food producers and to inform students of how dining hall food is sourced.

Although COVID-19 affected the logistics of the event, many local producers were still involved with procuring ingredients for the menu, featured below, according to Jesse Curran, assistant director of wellness and nutrition for the University. 

Annually, Dining Services challenges their chefs to produce locally sourced meals as part of the Eat Local Challenge. Although the event showcases partnerships between the University and these producers, Curran emphasized that many of these products are regular features on University dining menus. For example, this year’s challenge featured a special tomato galette with golden cheese from Narragansett Creamery whose many products are available year round.

“In a traditional year, we would take over entire stations of the dining halls, featuring far more menu items. Additionally, we (would) invite local producers and farmers to come and talk with students,” Curran wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Last year’s event saw representatives from New Harvest Coffee Roasters discussing coffee and farmers from Horse Listener’s Orchard handing out apples. However, due to limitations resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the event had to be scaled down and no vendors could visit campus. 

“I think we were more hindered by COVID from a presentation standpoint, not so much with regards to actually sourcing ingredients and making items,” said Barb Kempken, associate director of dining services. “We didn’t have any issues sourcing the food that we needed.”

Zane Ruzicka ’23, a member of the Undergraduate Council of Students Dining Council, was involved in coordinating the event and emphasized how the Eat Local Challenge promoted Brown Dining’s sustainable sourcing practices. “Dining cares a lot about where its food sourcing comes from — everything down to the salt is locally sourced, and you can look up the menu and see where everything is coming from,” he said. 

Like many students, Ruzicka is currently studying remotely, and so was unable to attend the event.

In addition to modeling more sustainable sourcing practices, the challenge came with some culinary and environmental benefits. “The event is also important from a food quality standpoint,” Kempken said. “I’ve been cooking for more than half my life, and (locally sourced food) always has better flavor. It is also an environmental statement since local sourcing creates a lower carbon footprint.”

Planning future events has been difficult with the unpredictability of the pandemic, but the challenge is an annual tradition that Brown Dining Services intends to continue for the future, according to Kempken. “We’ve had pretty strong, ongoing relationships with our vendors, and it is an event we always enjoy doing,” he said. “We’ll have to see what next year looks like.”

2020 ELC Menu:

Fall apple, pear, and cranberry crisp

Apples & pears – Jaswell’s Farm

Oats – Maine Grains

Wheat flour – Maine Grains

Butter – Horse Listener’s Orchard

Maple sugar – Quissett Hill Farm 

Tomato Galette 

Wheat flour – Maine Grains

Plum Tomato – Horse Listener’s Orchard

Butter – Horse Listener’s Orchard

Basil – Horse Listener’s Orchard

Sea Salt – Maine Sea Salt Company

Atwells Gold cheese – Narragansett Creamery 

 Harvest grain bowl

Mixed baby greens – Queens greens

Rye berry salad – Maine Grains

Apple/Celery slaw – Jaswell’s Farm

Grilled chicken – sub tofu for Vegan Bowl

Heirloom cherry tomatoes – Ward’s Berry Farm

Maple glazed butternut squash – Horse Listener’s Orchard & Quissett Hill Farm

Pickled pepper vinaigrette – Kitchen Garden Farm & Taproot Farm

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