A New Webpage, A New Emphasis on Local & Sustainable Foods at Smith

18 Apr

Last semester, students in the Environmental Science and Policy Capstone (ENV 312) initiated a dialogue with Smith College Dining Services in an effort to increase transparency between the administration and the student body about our institutional food purchasing. A defining goal of this partnership was to both celebrate and better incorporate local and sustainable food into the dining halls. With the help of Kathy Zieja, director of dining services at Smith, CEEDS, and the students within the ENV capstone, I (as a member of the Sustainable Food Concentration) have been given the privilege of building on this work as a local food intern with Dining Services. Since this is a new position, I assumed my main contributions would be creating and distributing signage to common spaces and/or using social media and ad campaigns to help promote and expand awareness of Smith’s current initiatives toward local food. Yet, I am happy to report that with the assistance of Kathy and Annie Cahill (web development specialist at Smith), I’ve helped redesign the local/sustainable food section dining hall website.

Screen shot 2014-04-16 at 2.40.17 PM

Prior to this reboot, one would go to the Dining Hall webpage, scroll down to the Local & Sustainable Foods tab, and find an anticlimactic, somewhat conflicting view of Smith’s commitment to local food. While the header confidently stated “Dining Services is committed to supporting area farmers by purchasing as much local produce as possible” the image portrayed directly below this phrase was not that of area farmers or local foods but rather gleeful Smith students dishing up some unknown platter of meats. Furthermore, the two featured “local” foods were avocados (not local to Massachusetts…) and blueberries (local to New England but seasonally limited in availability during the academic year). I was surprised and confused by this misrepresentation because I knew Dining Services already had many initiatives to be proud to promote: a switch to Fair Trade/Organic Coffee from a Northampton based, independent roaster; a shift away from conventional eggs to cage-free, certified humane; and a sustained commitment to buying Berkshire Sidehill Yogurt, among others. After browsing through other university websites, I decided the best remedy would be to clearly state the importance of local and sustainable food and highlight current efforts by Dining Services to promote this access and awareness. Perhaps the most effective and meaningful alteration is the new sidebar which gives users a mini bio about our food distributors (who they are, where they are located, and what we source from them). Each bio contains a hyperlink to the farmer or distributor’s website, which allows those interested to better acquaint themselves with those responsible for the foods we eat everyday here at Smith. So too, we’ve added a sidebar featuring on-campus groups interested in making Smith a more conscious and intentional institution.

Check out the new Local & Sustainable Foods webpage!

-Emma Ulriksen, ’14
Emma is a senior living in Smith’s vegetarian cooperative, Tenney House. She is an American Studies major and Sustainable Food concentrator, particularly interested in the culture of food in the United States.

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