150-Mile Meals on April 22

It won’t be business as usual in the Williams College dining halls on April 22nd this year. In support of No Impact Week, an initiative led by Lexie Carr ’13 and Thursday Night Grassroots, a special breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu will put our region and staff to the test on Earth Day. If planning is an indication, the resulting meals will earn honors for their tasty ingenuity.

Every ingredient for these meals—from spices to flour to cooking fats—will originate from within 150 miles of Williams College. The resulting menus reveal the bounty our region offers even at the end of winter, when local food is scarce. “I am so impressed by what Dining Services has been able to put together,” said Carr at a recent planning meeting. “I can’t wait to taste all this great food.” She is not alone among students calling for a focus on local foods in the dining halls. While Williams Dining has made progress in buying more from local growers in recent years, Monday, April 22nd will show just how far food service at Williams can go.

The process has educated everyone involved. A group of cooks, directors, and students has been meeting since December of last year to make sure the kitchens in Mission Park Dining Hall, Driscoll Dining Hall, and Whitmans’ Grill in Paresky will be able to produce the best meals possible. “It’s been a real learning experience to plan this menu” said Fred Ackley, First Cook A at Whitmans’. Along with Chris Moresi, First Cook at Driscoll, and David Berger, First Cook A at

Kim Wells ’78 of East Mountain Farm is proud that Mission Park Dining Hall will serve 40 pounds of his pork sausage–seen here on the hoof–on April 22nd.

Mission Park, these seasoned professionals encountered new challenges devising ways to feed hundreds of students with a limited range of ingredients. Executive Chef of Dining Services Mark Thompson offered sourcing guidance along the way, as did Brent Wasser of the Sustainable Food & Agriculture Program. Chris Abayasinghe, Assistant Director of Student Dining, oversaw the development process.

The resulting menus include specialty foods that inspire locavore envy. Salad greens from Equinox Farm in Sheffield, MA and Destination Euphoria Greens in Cambridge, NY will fill meals with color, while hearty ingredients like pork sausage from East Mountain Farm in Williamstown and beef from Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, MA will attract meat lovers. Careful planning and preservation during the fall means that the kitchens still have Peace Valley Farm squash and potatoes to serve. Other items from storage include potatoes from

Suzy Konecky, the cheese maker at Cricket Creek Farm, is excited to see Tobasi cheese featured on the lunch menu at Driscoll.

Moses Farm in Eagle Bridge, NY, and Hudson Valley apples provided by Paradise Farms of Williamstown. When considering the menus, the cooks had to rethink their usual cooking processes, too. Instead of the usual cooking oils available to them, fats will be restricted to High Lawn Farm butter from Lee, MA and sunflower oil from Butterworks Farm in Westfield, VT. Jerry D’Acchille, Manager of Paresky Center and a farmer himself, looks forward to this meal for what it represents. “It’s incredible to be able to produce a meal from solely 150 miles or less. I’m all about living within your limits,” he said. Williams Dining staff has confronted those limits in putting this meal together, and students will encounter a few resulting changes on Earth Day.

While breakfast, lunch, and dinner will feature local foods not always seen in campus meals, students might note what is missing. Soda machines will be off, replaced by local apple cider. Coffee won’t be available either. The same is true for tea and chocolate products. It might be a challenge for students to go without these regular stimulants, but the No Impact exercise encourages a level of discomfort to help people to recognize the extent to which their daily decisions influence the broader environment.

Beyond limited choices, the 150-mile meals are an opportunity for Williams Dining staff and students to consider the tradeoffs of eating locally from budgetary and logistical perspectives. “It’s a first,” said Tha Poeuk, Second Cook A in Mission Park, where the 150-mile breakfast will be served. “In our day, we consider the

All three meals will feature grains from Charlotte, VT.

whole world available to us, and 150 miles is not very far at all, and this is not too easy. But this is a lesson for the students and a chance to show them that we can do it. I think they will be surprised.” When students come to Driscoll for lunch, they will find a rich menu featuring local hamburgers from Ioka Valley Farm, polenta from Nitty Gritty Grain Company in Charlotte, VT, and vegetarian spanakopita made with feta from Bennington’s Maplebrook Farm. Confronted by these delicious options, students may not recognize that this meal actually costs less to produce than the typical lunch at Driscoll. “From a budgetary standpoint, it’s fantastic,” said Molly O’Brien, Unit Manager at Driscoll. “It helps us save money and gives us a chance to source local products. I like talking with farmers and forming a stronger bond with them.” In O’Brien’s experience, eating locally doesn’t mean higher costs, facilitates new connections, and yields a menu that her staff is proud of.

The 150-mile meals will rotate through the three main dining halls on Earth Day. Breakfast will be served in Mission Park, lunch will be at Driscoll, and dinner will be served in Whitmans’. Signage and sourcing maps will help students understand the origins of the food. Student interpreters from Thursday Night Grassroots, Real Food Williams, and Williams Sustainable Growers will help students understand the significance of these special menus. The next day, the coffee and hot chocolate will start flowing again, but Williams Dining staff and students will hopefully eat with a new perspective on what is possible. If we can accomplish such great results in April, what progress could we make during the rest of the year?