The Season for Thanksgiving

At the end of an eventful harvest season and in the spirit of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I'd like to give thanks for the amazing food and passionate people that are moving us all towards a sustainable food system, locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Here are some snapshots of those people and the events taking place to promote change.

September 17, Make it a Local Lunch, Newcomb Dining Hall

October 5, Green Dining Local Food Hub Farm Tour, Educational Farm at Maple Hill

October 7, Fair Trade Month Sampling Event, Crossroads

October 7, "What's On Your Plate: A Public Forum on Local Food & The Media", Jefferson Scholars Foundation Center

October 10 - 13, AASHE Conference and Annual Aramark Sustainability Meeting, Denver, CO

October 21 - 25, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto, Turin, Italy

November 5, Slow Food Albemarle Piedmont Terra Madre Recap, Speak! Language Center

November 15, America Recycles Day, The Lawn

November 18, UVa Urban Planning Graduate Department's 100 Mile Thanksgiving, Westminster Church


Thanks to Flavor Magazine!

I wrote in a post a few months back that I was using some sustainable dining funds to start a modest sustainable agriculture-related library -- bookshelf, really. In addition to the original titles (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; The Politics of Food; The Omnivore's Dilemma; etc) I have added several volumes that I purchased at the recent AASHE (Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference, including Slow Money and Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks and Food Activists.

Along with those wonderful books, I have also been collecting back issues of both Flavor and Edible Blue Ridge, two area publications that promote local products, profile area producers, and celebrate the bounty of Central Virginia all year long. Edible Blue Ridge is part of a national network of magazines devoted to local and sustainable agriculture, known as Edible Communities, and its quarterly publications can be found for free at many area shops like Revolutionary Soup, Albemarle Baking Company, The Happy Cook, Integral Yoga Natural Foods, and more.
Similarly, Flavor, though an independent bi-monthly publication, is devoted to bringing farmers, producers, and their work to the forefront of our community's consciousness. Having been distributed free of cost for close to two and a half years, Flavor has made the decision to start charging a fee per issue so that it can be stocked in larger grocery stores, and so that ultimately its message can reach a broader audience. Flavor was kind enough to donate a year subscription of its magazine to UVa Dining, so we will be receiving six issues over the next year and adding them to the sustainable ag shelf!
Please feel free to stop by the Dining Admin Office and peruse the books and magazines -- magazines may be browsed at the office and books may be checked out.


Update on VA Farm to School Week

The 2nd Annual Virginia Farm to School Week is winding down but the dining halls on Grounds are still serving some local produce. Between the three residential dining rooms, you can find Gala, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonathan and Black Twig apples all from Central Virginia orchards: Dickie Brothers Orchard (Nelson County), Still House Creek Orchard (Batesville) and Henley's Orchard (Crozet), to be exact. How's that for variety?!

On Monday, one of the Dining Educators, Jasmine Drake, and I tabled at OHill to publicize both the Meat Free Monday station and Virginia Farm to School Week. The original plan was to tie the two events together, as Local Food Hub veggies were being ordered for the Meat Free Monday station's Grilled Vegetable Ciabatta. Since we are well into November, though, and the temperature has been steadily dropping, it didn't come as a huge surprise to discover Monday morning that a frost at the end of last week wiped out most of those very vegetables we were hoping to serve.
Instead of coming from the Food Hub, the sandwich's squash, green peppers and zucchini came from a supplier based in North Carolina, probably close enough to be considered part of our regional food system, and not a bad compromise. This naturally might begin to raise interesting questions about the nature of seasonality and the role it plays (or should, if any) in Dining's menu development. Of course, Dining is committed to providing a variety of dishes to students, and at least for now that means that we will continue to serve those foods beyond our ability to procure the ingredients locally. It is the Local Food Hub's hope that with a combination of season extensions (high tunnels, hoop houses, row cover), our community farmers will be able to provide that food all the way into late fall/early winter.

For now, we are still getting winter squashes, potatoes, and apples -- items that all store quite well and will be available as long as supplies last in the Local Food Hub warehouse. I advertised OHill's Grilled Vegetable Ciabatta as containing regionally sourced veggies, but was still able to publicize a stuffed acorn squash dish, roasted red potatoes and apples as all coming from more local, Central Virginia sources. And that was all just during lunch on Monday!

So the next time you eat at one of the dining halls, check out the labels for each dish. You may be surprised by the amount of local signage you see. And if you have any questions or feedback about sourcing, don't hesitate to speak with the dining room manager or executive chef -- you can often find them on the floor during meal time.


Help UVa Dining Celebrate VA Farm to School Week

Celebrate the 2nd Annual Virginia Farm To School Week, November 8-12, with several dishes offered at the OHill and Newcomb Meat Free Monday Station on Monday, November 8. At OHill, the lunchtime dish, a Grilled Veggie Ciabatta, will feature local squash, zucchini, and green peppers; while the Newcomb Meat Free Monday station will be host to Potato India (lunch) and Thai Tofu Curry (dinner), both featuring local green peppers and potatoes. All local items are sourced from from the Local Food Hub, (as you know) a nonprofit distribution organization that brings UVa Dining fresh local produce from within a 60 mile radius!

Virginia Farm to School Week is a program of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). As the VDACS website states, "Virginia schools currently spend more than $6 million annually on fresh produce. The Farm to School Program in Virginia will open the door for more of those dollars to stay within the state and support Virginia farmers by promoting opportunities for schools, distributors and growers to work together to increase the volume of locally grown product served in school cafeterias and dining halls. Incorporating local products into school meals also enhances the educational opportunity for students who benefit by learning about the seasonality of food products, the importance of supporting local agriculture and the benefits associated with reducing transportation cost and protecting farms and farmland in our communities." The first VA Farm to School Week, just last year, had participation from at least one school district in every region of the Commonwealth -- a great turnout and one that I'm sure we'll far outperform this year!

Lunch is served at OHill and Newcomb between 11am and 2pm, and dinner between 5 and 8pm. Come on out and give these dishes a try, while supporting Virginia's economy, agriculture and farmland, and student health all at the same time.