U needs to show Aramark the door out

It is high time we consider the benefits of improving our dining halls.

I applaud John Hoff’s series on Aramark’s shortcomings and the need to re-evaluate the U’s dining services. As an on-again, off-again vegetarian and fan of organically grown food, I am thrilled with the increasing number and quality of options offered in the two Coffman Union convenience stores ” soy milk, organic snacks, prepackaged hummus. It is often hard for vegetarians, vegans and organic supporters to find on-the-go food, and I have been so glad to have more options.

It’s not enough. Our dining halls need to follow an increasing national trend toward organic and locally produced foods. According to organicconsumers.org, about 200 colleges and universities have programs to integrate locally grown foods. The Farm to College programs, as they are collectively known, are part of a larger Buy Local movement to encourage consumers and institutions to purchase food from local farmers, as opposed to shopping at grocery stores and wholesalers that tend to buy food from all parts of the world. Proponents of Buy Local campaigns argue that purchasing local food protects the environment by slashing the distance food is transported and helps family farms in a cutthroat agricultural environment. Buying locally produced goods not only helps the local economy and supports Minnesota farmers, it also saves on pollution produced during transit by trucks and planes.?

The benefits of changing our cafeteria food to include local and organic products do not stop there; organic foods may actually be more nutritious. Price-Pottinger Nutrition Foundation’s Web site reports that in more than 300 comparisons performed in 30 studies, “organic crops had a higher nutrient content about 40 percent of the time, and conventional crops had a higher nutrient content only about 15 percent of the time. Organic crops had an equal or higher nutrient content about 85 percent of the time. On average organic crops have a higher nutrient content.” It’s time we consider the benefits. These services should not be contracted out; perhaps the University should manage its ownhalls. Perhaps local restaurateurs, rather than large corporations, would be better outside contractors. It’s hard to say exactly what the University should do, but it is easy to see that it needs to do something soon. Aramark does not have our best interests in mind.

Sarah Zenk Blossom is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]