UDS event promotes organic foods

Thousand Hills Cattle Company is one of the new UDS vendors; they raise grass-fed beef.

Alex Robinson

About 3,500 students filed into the Great Hall in Coffman Union yesterday afternoon to get their share of free food from University Dining Services.

However, UDS representatives hoped students took more away from the afternoon than a full stomach and a backpack full of organic French fries.

UDS launched the Eat Well, Live Well event to promote its efforts of including more local vendors and serving organic food at the University.

More than 30 booths were set up by partners of UDS so students could test free samples and learn about healthy eating.

UDS is making a point to include local vendors in its operations.

One of the four new vendors added last year is Thousand Hills Cattle Company of Cannon Falls, which sells 100 percent grass-fed beef to UDS restaurants.

Todd Lein, Thousand Hills Cattle Company sales director, said it’s crucial for the University to continue working with local businesses.

“It’s a pretty large organization, we’re feeding a ton of people and it takes a lot of different angles,” Lein said.

Despite UDS’s intentions to bring local vendors into the mix, there were also some national corporations represented at the event, such as Coca-Cola, Frito Lay and Subway.

Subway food service manager Alberto Martinez said he did not view the new local vendors as a threat to business.

“I don’t think it’s competition, because Subway is already pretty well established in St. Paul,” Martinez said.

UDS executive chef Ray Thering said the movement to serve organic food and work with more local vendors started about two years ago.

UDS is now trying to make its advancements more visible to the student population, he said.

“For me, this is the biggest trend there is,” Thering said. “It’s growing in leaps and bounds.”

Unfortunately for Thering, many of the students attending Eat Well, Live Well didn’t come to support healthier dining but rather to chow down on the free food.

First-year criminal psychology student Luke Schieve said while he enjoyed the food, he wasn’t that concerned with its health benefits.

“It’s good, but it’s not as good as fast food,” Schieve said. “It’s really all about taste.”

Advertising sophomore Megan Weisenberger said she wasn’t aware of UDS’s efforts to produce more organic products and include local vendors.

“I like the idea, I just haven’t really seen it yet,” Weisenberger said.

UDS director Larry Weger said he expects Eat Well, Live Well to change some of the sentiments students have about UDS.

“The hope is to provide people with more information about what’s available to them,” Weger said.

Unlike Weisenberger and Schieve, environmental design senior Jennifer Oliphant said she already knew about the steps UDS was taking toward healthier dining.

“I already knew they were doing some great work,” Oliphant said. “I’m glad they’re finally getting this stuff out there.”