Preservation and storage are critical components of a local food system. The more food we are able to preserve and store during the productive months, the longer we are able to serve local food throughout the year. This may impose some financial burden up front, but then the product is in inventory and can be served later without additional cost.
A big challenge in Peirce Hall, however, is a lack of storage space. Our produce cooler can generally only hold three days’ worth of produce; our meat freezer is not nearly large enough to keep a month’s worth of meat. To some degree, the local food program helps alleviate this storage problem. Our relationship with Bergman allows us to store most of our beef off campus, which would be impossible if we had no relationship with a facility that has spare room in the freezer. Bergman’s facility has extensive freezer space, and he graciously allows Kenyon to use some of the space to make up for the inadequate cold storage in Peirce. We do not use the space only for meat storage: over the summer, we ask Wilma Hershberger to make as much applesauce for us as she can, and then we freeze most of it until it’s needed in the dining hall. This way we can extend the availability of local products long into the winter.
However, the nature of our produce supply poses some problems. Our individual suppliers work on a small scale, so we usually don’t pick up the food from them daily. An industrial distributor is able to deliver daily, so chefs can work with produce day by day without having to account for the supplier’s schedule. In our system, we accumulate produce over the week and the chefs use it up as they go. Because we sometimes visit a particular farmer only once a week, we must be able to fit a week’s worth of that particular food into the cooler. It can even be difficult to find room for all of the food in the coolers. A good solution to this limitation could be investing in a refrigerated truck, which might serve as a flexible source of food storage.