This fall Appalachian State University is sourcing a record amount of food from local farmers. This is the beginning of a powerful partnership that will support the community and ASU students.
Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, lettuce, and butternut squash will be sourced locally as available September through November. The vegetables will be mixed in the regular food stream with signage signifying the locally grown items. The Blue Ridge burger, with ground meat sourced from North Fork farm in Watauga County, will be available year round in the Rivers Street grill.
According to Heather Brandon, program specialist with ASU, they have been purchasing around 11% of their food from within a 250 mile radius as part of the ASU commitment to sustainability. She said, “We have wanted to purchase from farmers that are in the High Country, but it has been too challenging to deal with them individually. We are excited about the farmers who stepped up to participate in this partnership.” ASU is buying from seven farms, which are listed on the foodservice website http://foodservices.appstate.edu/sustainability/local-food/local-appetite
Local organizations interested in building a regional food system have been working with food producers to organize production schedules and transport the food to ASU on one truck with one invoice. Included are New River Organic Growers, Heifer International, Blue Ridge Seeds of Change, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, High Country Local First, and NC Cooperative Extension.
Students are encouraged to support this movement by visiting the dining halls and choosing from the local food options. With the support of diners, the amount of local food served in the ASU dining facilities will continue to grow.
According to a document written by a graduate student for the ASU sustainability office, titled ASU Local Food Initiative, buying locally can help mediate negative consequences of globalization by returning a greater percent of the food dollar directly to family farmers who live and spend locally. In the conventional retail food system, only 20 cents of every dollar is returned to the farmer.
The average food product travels 1,500 miles from where it is grown to our plate. Buying local food shortens the distance food travels and reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. By implementing a policy that shows preference to locally sourced food, ASU will help the region’s small family farms, create new job opportunities, protect valued farmland, and ultimately contribute to a thriving local economy.