[fork] It was just the average PB&J.
Well, that is if the average PB&J was made on bread straight from Zingerman’s Deli, instead of the stale Wonder Bread from aisle three. The peanut butter on that sandwich was ground right in the cafeteria, no salt or sugar added. And maybe there were a few fresh raspberries crushed in before the top slice was put on and the whole thing was cut into triangles.
OK, so it wasn’t exactly average. That’s thanks to the Yakeley cafeteria’s makeover.
This year the Yakeley cafeteria has gone organic, making some significant changes to keep its food natural and local. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich that pre-med sophomore Sarah Michmerhuizen made a couple of weeks ago was a product of its efforts. [pipper1]
“It [the peanut butter] didn’t have all the salt, preservatives and fake sugar,” Michmerhuizen said. “I had that for breakfast one morning. It was really good actually.”
The cafeteria has not gone completely organic, but it does its best to get produce from local farmers in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint by preventing food from having to be trucked from far away.
All of the salad greens are provided through the Spartan Harvest program. They are grown on campus by MSU students because Spartan Harvest is run through MSU’s Student Organic Farm. The produce is grown year-round using hoop houses that trap sunlight to allow for four-season farming.
“It travels three miles from field to fork,” Dining Services Manager Robbia Pipper said. “It’s grown by students for students.”
Right now, the farm is building a hoop house devoted entirely to serving West Circle cafeterias. Most produce for the salad bar is currently in peak season so the cafeteria has not had any trouble getting it locally. However they are planning to having to look to regional farmers to stock up when winter hits. But when the hoop house is completed, Yakeley may never have to leave campus for the majority of its fruits and vegetables. Students have noticed a difference in the produce already.[saladbar]
“It’s a lot fresher,” pre-vet sophomore Amber Tompkins said. “I eat in Hubbard a lot because I have a lot of classes over there. Usually the bananas are more brown and you can only get fresh fruit in the mornings, unless it’s apples. I can get strawberries and raspberries over here at dinner. I love that.”
The rest of the food is purchased as close to Yakeley as possible. The hummus and pita bread comes from Woody’s Oasis on Grand River Avenue. Baskets of Michigan apples are abundant and a deli bar is complete with organic meats from Wisconsin. The apple and orange juices are organic and every salad dressing besides Ranch is made in the cafeteria. The milk has gone organic, too.
“A student requested [organic milk] last year, but we couldn’t get it. Now we have three kinds, four including soy,” Pippen said.
Another big draw to the Yakeley cafeteria this year has been the juicer. All kinds of juices are made fresh every day from all raw ingredients. You can find that right next to the smoothie bar. Michmerhuizen, who works at the Yakeley cafeteria, has noticed its popularity. “I worked that shift one day, and a lot of people seemed to like it. It was carrot-apple juice so it took a little while, but a lot of people waited for it,” Michmerhuizen said.
Yakeley also began going trayless on Sep. 29, a movement that has started to become a fad across college campuses nationwide. All of Central Michigan University’s residential halls removed their trays at the beginning of this year. According to the CMU Web site, the university plans on saving 500 gallons of water per person annually and reducing food waste by 25 to 30 percent because people are less likely to load up their plates if they have to carry it all back to the table.
[fork3]The University of Connecticut has also ditched its trays. According to a CNN video, during the test week in two of its dining halls workers had to do 150 less dishwasher loads, saving 900 gallons of water and 30 kilowatts of power an hour. However, not all the students at UConn were happy about leaving their trays behind. Some said it was hard to juggle plates, forks and cups, especially if they wanted dessert or more than one drink. Tompkins has the same apprehensions about Yakeley. “More people are likely to leave stuff at the tables. I like why they’re doing it, but I don’t know if it’s going to work,” Tompkins said. [pipper2]
Instead of having the conveyor belt running nonstop during meals to take away dirty trays, tables are now cleared using bus carts, a lot like the kind used in neighborhood coffee houses. They are then taken downstairs by elevator to be cleaned. Michmerhuizen still has a few worries. “It’s good that they’re trying to save water, but I think it could be really hard to implement. Everyone will have to carry one thing at a time, which could be hard, and they’ll keep having to go back,” she said.
The organic and trayless projects are only being applied to Yakeley for the time being, but it is not because they have not gotten a good response. When the decision to go organic started on March 8 of this year, no one was sure of the volume of produce the farm was going to be able to put out.
“We wanted to go with a small cafeteria because it would be easier to procure smaller amounts at the beginning,” Dining Services Manager Anita Sandel said. “There’s a more manageable guest count here.”[traysystem]
Sandel and Pippen are trying to figure out what is most popular with the students and making sure they have stable sources for getting all their food.
“We’re in a learning mode right now. We’re trying to figure out what students like, what’s successful and then applying what we learned to other parts of campus,” Sandel said.
Spartan Harvest is not in it for the business, and the other cafeterias are doing their part to keep campus green. Napkins in all the dining halls are made of recycled fibers, and the residence halls and cafeterias are recycling cardboard, plastic and paperboard. But not everyone has had a positive response to Yakeley’s natural and local foods. Tompkins has not had much salad this year, Michmerhuizen knows a lot of people who do not like the dressings and the peanut butter on her lunchbox staple sandwich might not have been the best she has ever had.
“It was a little dry, a little chalky. But not that bad,” she said.
Still, that was one eco-friendly, super healthy PB&J.