Location: Their office is headquartered in South Dining Hall.
History/Mission: While this organization may not be one that ordinarily jumps to the mind as a “local food organization,” it’s quite literally the most local food organization to us. To learn more about this familiar organization’s sustainability initiatives, I interviewed Cheryl Bauer, Campus Dining’s Associate Director of Sourcing and Sustainability. Although her position was created only two years ago, Campus Dining has put an emphasis on sustainability and local sourcing for the last decade. The University actually has a rich history of agriculture and local food. When Father Sorin arrived in 1842, one his first priorities was establishing a working farm on the southeastern shore of St. Mary’s Lake. This operation had the responsibility of feeding the entire University, providing the meat, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables for all faculty, staff, and students. The farm also generated extra revenue for the University to expand academically. As the University grew, the farm was moved to where West Quad is currently. In 1917, Brother Leo Donovan established an Agriculture School at Notre Dame. As director of the farm, Brother Donovan wanted to educate Notre Dame students about caring for the land through farming. The school was dropped, however, in 1932. Eventually, the farm and all its operations were moved to St. Joseph’s Farm in Granger. This land was owned by the University until 1995, when they sold it to Notre Dame alumni.
Since our food is no longer grown right here, Campus Dining has taken on the responsibility of bringing quality, fresh food to campus. As seen from its website, two of their core values are “Sustainability” and “Local Sourcing.” During my discussion with Mrs. Bauer, I was amazed at the initiatives Campus Dining currently undertakes to get local food on campus. For example, all of our canned tomatoes are Red Gold brand, based in Elwood, IN. All of their tomatoes are grown in Indiana or our neighboring states, and the farms are all family owned. Similarly, Notre Dame’s milk products are a brand called Prairie Farms, based in Fort Wayne, IN. All of their dairies are also family owned and located in the Midwest. Even the little black disposable trays we build our salad on at Café De Grasta are manufactured in Indiana. Our produce is locally sourced for as long as possible, provided by our vendor, Stanz Foodservice (who is also based in South Bend). Mrs. Bauer explained Campus Dining’s commitment to local food “where it makes sense… Local is good, but it’s not always the entire picture. If we ate locally in February, people would hate us.” Inspired by our diverse array of chefs, Campus Dining has increasingly emphasized putting authentic ethnic food on the menus. While these dishes taste amazing and are healthier than our past menus, these ingredients often can’t be provided locally. But the progress towards a sustainable diet is encouraging, and there is more on the horizon (Mrs. Bauer even hinted about being in the research phase of an on-campus hydroponic facility). To determine how Notre Dame stacks up to other schools, I turned to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). This is a self-report program which allows institutions to measure how they’re doing on overall sustainability initiatives. Notre Dame has a Gold level rating, which is the second highest rating out of five the organization awards. The report divides campus initiatives by general sections. Notre Dame was awarded 6.81/8.25 points for its Dining Services, losing points only in the “food and beverage purchasing” field. While Notre Dame has a long way to go in terms of the percentage of local food it purchases, the progress it’s already made is promising. When asked about the motivation for these sustainable choices, Mrs. Bauer smiled and said “It’s the right thing to do.”
More Information: Campus Dining’s website is a great place to learn about their core values, some sustainable initiatives, and current events: https://dining.nd.edu/
Get Involved: Stay up to date on what’s new in campus dining and voice your opinion. Mrs. Bauer also hires a student every year to do research and outreach. Contact her for details: Cheryl Bauer, Associate Director of Sustainability and Sourcing: firstname.lastname@example.org