Preparation and Service
Once the food gets to the dining hall, the burden of responsibility shifts to the chefs and other dining hall staff. We are extremely fortunate that our executive chef supports the local food program. Dining service employees also need to be educated about the benefits of local foods in the dining hall. The program must have support from all sides: the requests and involvement of faculty and students promote it from the bottom up, and the oversight of college administration and trustees, as well as from dining service provider, supports it from the top down.
Many cafeteria-style kitchens have limited space for the preparation for local food, as their model involves emptying prepared food into warming trays. In our dining facility, however, an expanded prep kitchen on the lower level allows chefs and cooks to use far more fresh, local food, simply because there is space available where they can prepare it.
Once the food has been prepared, it is crucial that students are aware of the local food in the dining hall. Local food education is absolutely critical to the success of any farm-to-college system, for students will not support the local food program unless they understand its importance. Labeling is a great means of communicating with students, but it can be challenging to coordinate. Bringing local producers into the dining hall is also valuable, as it reinforces the importance of supporting the local economy by giving a face to local agriculture. Student involvement in preparation is another great way for students to become more invested in the local food program.