The Facility: Peirce Hall
Peirce Hall, Kenyon’s dining facility, was renovated in 2008; many of the changes were made specifically to accommodate the use of local foods. Many cafeteria-style kitchens have limited space for the preparation for local food, as their model involves emptying prepared food into warming trays. In Peirce, 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. This emphasis on cooking with fresh ingredients is carried over into the servery. There are five “stations” that serve different meal options, though all are not always open at the same time. Each station is equipped with some means of preparing food in the actual servery, right in front of the students. For example, one station has a brick oven for baking pizza and breads; another has a six-burner stove where students can find a variety of pasta dishes, soups, and omelets made to order.
There are also improvements to the building that are more fundamentally fitted for a local food system. For example, the loading dock can be adjusted to a range of heights to accommodate the trucks of individual farmers, whose trucks are not of one particular size. The new kitchen space incorporates more sinks, allowing workers to wash local produce more easily. We also installed a pulper-extractor that is connected to the sinks in the prep kitchen and dish room. The machine grinds up food and paper waste to produce compost, improving the dining hall’s sustainability by reducing the amount of waste entering landfills.
Storage, as previously mentioned, is a big challenge in Peirce. Even though it was renovated fairly recently, we don’t have as much storage as we need. We have a separate cooler for tomatoes, which need to be kept at a higher temperature than the rest of the produce, in a hallway. In the fall, when it’s cooler but there are still large quantities of produce, we keep some food out on the loading dock. In the end though, we are extremely fortunate to have access to Bergman’s freezer space. As explained above, preservation is a critical aspect of a local food system, because it allows us to continue to serve local food into the winter.