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Dining Services supports local farmers through buying fresh produce - The Breeze: News

Dining Services supports local farmers through buying fresh produce

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Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 8:55 pm | Updated: 8:55 pm, Wed Mar 21, 2012.

Dining Services has a beef with the national attention that “pink slime” and other chemical treatments are getting, so it’s buying local to feed JMU fresher food.

Pink slime is the result of an ammonia treatment that’s applied to boneless lean beef trimmings to prevent growth of E. coli bacteria. Although the US Department of Agriculture says the beef filler is safe, customer concern has rapidly grown.

Dining Services doesn’t use this preservation process on the food it gets from local farmers in Virginia and North Carolina, according to Stephanie Hoshower, resident district manager of Dining Services. 

“We are a member of the local chapter of ‘Buy Fresh, Buy Local,’ and we buy local foods in season whenever possible,” Hoshower said. 

“Buy Fresh, Buy Local” is a national movement that encourages support of community-based food providers, according to its website.

JMU purchases more than 60 varieties of produce over the course of the school year through Produce Source Partners, according to Hoshower.

About 25 to 30 percent of products are from Virginia and North Carolina in season, and about 10 to 15 percent out of season. Local suppliers can’t always meet the demand, which can mean outsourcing to states farther away.

“We believe that buying locally is beneficial and can play an important role in minimizing our carbon footprint,” Hoshower said.

Hoshower also said Dining Services has found a Virginia source of tomatoes that meets at least some of the campus’ needs from spring through December. During the rest of the year, tomatoes are brought in from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. 

She added this was also the same for lettuce. In the winter, some lettuce may be from as far as California.

Dining Services also supports local food chains such as Mr. J’s Bagels, Shenandoah’s Pride in Mt. Crawford and Flowers Bakery in Lynchburg, Hoshower said.

Hoshower said the dining halls use herbs grown in the Edith J. Arboretum under Dining Services and the arboretum staff’s supervision.

Gail Turnbull, arboretum assistant director, said the arboretum has been a source of fresh herbs for dining halls for about two years.

“Especially when E-Hall was constructed, the chefs asked if they themselves could come across the street and cut herbs from our garden,” Turnbull said. “We’ve had a policy of organic gardening and nonchemical garden treatment. The more clippings are taken, that stimulates growth.”

For the most part, there are few issues with spoiled food, some Dining Service employees explained.

“When I made sandwiches, the meat and stuff always seemed fresh and sanitary,” said Ben McGarry, former PC Dukes employee and a junior marketing major. 

Hoshower said new food shipments arrive daily. However, certain foods may be reused from day-to-day and are kept in the freezer to stay fresh.

“People sometimes order some gross combinations of food, but nothing has ever gone bad while I was there,” said Julia McGinn, a freshman music major who works at PC Dukes.

Hoshower said that keeping fresh and sanitary food is a priority of Dining Services. 

“Vendors must have an excellent reputation and food safety record, as well as a documented, ‘trackable’ product safety and recall program,” Hoshower said.