by Celeste Berg ’13
On Monday, April 22, Williams College embarked on No Impact Week, a one-week carbon cleanse that gives experimenters the chance to see what a difference “no impact” living can have on quality of life. Three local meals kicked off the week: students could dine at Mission Park for breakfast, Driscoll for lunch, and Whitmans’ for dinner and enjoy food produced exclusively within 150 miles of the college. The purpose of the 150-Mile Meals was to get “students to think more deeply about where their food was coming from and how it was made, and to show that, even during the low-season (end of winter), there is still enough food in our area to produce three delicious and distinct meals,” said Lexie Carr ’13, who organized No Impact Week. Williams Dining was admirably stringent in its commitment to the 150 mile radius, excluding, for example, coffee from the menu. For more information on the planning that went into these meals, follow this link.
At Whitmans’ dinner, I enjoyed homemade pasta with spinach and roasted garlic, hearty and toothsome autumn squash soup, chicken with fingerling potatoes and roasted root vegetables, and picnic-style potato and chopped apple salad. As I devoured the feast before me, a chorus of happy, appreciative student voices filled the air. The 150-Mile Meals was an overwhelming success, and no wonder—Lexie subsequently filled me in on the meticulous planning that made her vision a reality.
Back in October, Lexie began brainstorming approaches for the food focus of No Impact Week, ultimately deciding on a dining hall meal because it would be accessible to everyone. After meeting initially with Assistant Dining Director Chris Abayasinghe to discuss logistics, Lexie and Brent Wasser of the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Program met monthly with various representatives from Dining Services. Lexie applauded the organization for extensively researching what was available in our area, contacting farmers months in advance, preserving food from the fall, and thinking creatively about menus. Indeed, Williams is fortunate to have a committed, self-operated dining department whose flexibility and responsiveness enables local food-centric events such as the 150-Mile Meals.
On Sunday, April 28, a final No Impact Week celebration took place, as lucky diners enjoyed a student-prepared meal and discussion at the Log. As students discussed how decisions such as eating locally can enhance personal quality of life and the health of the planet, a wholesome meal of hearty lentil vegetable soup, spinach salad with roasted vegetables and avocado dressing, onion and cheese cornbread, and Swedish apple cake seemed a delicious and appropriate conclusion to the week.