College students treated to local fare

CAMROSE, Alta. — It’s lunch time at the cafeteria at the University of Alberta’s Augustana campus in Camrose.

Students are lining up, chatting and laughing, awaiting their turn. The main course menu items today are spicy sausages, tender baby potatoes, and creamy dilled carrots, all locally sourced. A homemade bun rounds out the main course. Students can also make their way to the long salad bar where they can choose from a colourful selection of crunchy vegetables.

The meals provide a tangible link in Augustana’s sustainable food policy, which originated in 2008. A field-to-fork theme that year started an ongoing campus-wide effort to procure the cafeteria’s food requirements from local producers.

Supervisor of food services Lilas Bielopotocky said it took a bit of added work to track down local suppliers in the beginning but some of the initial hurdles have been overcome

“Now it’s just part of my routine,” she said.

Augustana is a residence-based campus with a population of about 1,000 students. The cafeteria serves 300 to 400 students three times a day. The meals are prepared on site— not bought as pre-cooked or pre-packaged. It offers at least one local lunch per month.

Bielopotocky, who grew up in the area, has worked in Augustana’s food services for almost 30 years. She cites numerous benefits to using food less travelled. “The food is fresher; more nutritious. We’re supporting local farmers. It supports the local economy.”

Augustana’s sustainable food policy offers several other advantages to buying more local food:

  • Buying locally reduces the campus’s carbon footprint.
  • Local producers who earn a living from their farm in turn spend money in their community.
  • By supporting local farmers today, it ensures there will be local farms, and food, tomorrow.
  • Animal husbandry and stewardship of the land is supported.
  • Open spaces used to grow food are less likely to be sold to developers.

Bielopotocky said that 80 percent of the beef used at the cafeteria is sourced locally most of the time. She said all eggs, yogurt and sour cream is local. Milk is supplied by Dairyland, a national company with regional sources. Most of the hot vegetable and salad bar choices — potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, and peppers — are 100 percent locally sourced.

All of the frozen pastas are made in Edmonton. Sunny Boy cereal, a combination of wheat, rye and flax, is a Camrose product.

However, the cafeteria faced certain nutritional challenges due to its central Alberta location. Local fresh fruits are not available year-round and must be shipped in, although the saskatoon berries are native and local.

Other items such as spices, coffee and teas are brought in. Many carry the Fair Trade logo, certifying they are sustainably raised in a humanitarian fashion.

Bielopotocky said buying as much local food as possible comes with drawbacks. For one, it often is more expensive.

“And sometimes it’s hard to fill orders due to the volume needed,” she said.

The cafeteria requires about 680 kilograms of carrots a year, for example, which can be difficult for local suppliers to meet.

But Bielopotocky is undaunted and does as much as she can to stay true to the mission.

“I really like to support the local farmers.”

About Augustana

  • It was founded as Camrose Lutheran College in 1910 by an association of Norwegian immigrant congregations.
  • It changed its name to Augustana College in 1991.
  • The college began offering university courses in the fall of 1959 as an affiliated college of the University of Alberta.
  • The college has about 1,000 undergraduate students from across Alberta, Canada and the world.

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