Atwater dining hall embraces local meat providers


During the month of January, Atwater dining hall served only local meat, a more environmentally sustainable practice.

Atwater Dining tested a new initiative to only use local meats during J-Term. The dining hall has previously worked on initiatives that integrate sustainable sources for food, including the purchase of in-season local produce and Meatless Mondays, which feature vegetarian lunches.

Ian Martin, commons chef of Atwater, said that the test had been successful, but that J-Term is a slow period for the dining hall, so the change is more likely to pose challenges during the spring semester.

“We’re going to test this coming up,” Martin said.  “we’re going to stay with local meats, at least to the best of our ability based on supply.” “We’ll buy as much as we think we’ll need… and then if we need to back up, we’ll use non-local products.”

Emma Clinton ’21 and Raechel Zeller ’22, co-directors of the SGA Environmental Affairs Committee, worked on the J-Term efforts as part of a campaign for greater sustainable consumption in the dining halls.

“I saw the month as not only an opportunity for students to eat higher quality, more sustainable meat in Atwater, but also an opportunity for dining services to support local food producers to a greater extent than they already do,” Zeller said. “To me, sustainability and food are not only about the carbon footprint behind what you’re eating, but how it connects you to the community and environment around you.”

The Environmental Affairs Committee sponsored a plant-based dinner in Atwater Dining hall, held a movie screening about plant-based athletics and set up posters to educate students about the local farms the dining halls source from.

“We have yet to go over the numbers to see if this initiative had much positive impact on our efforts to reduce meat in the dining hall,” Clinton said, “but the local meats served in Atwater during January were assuredly more sustainable than those that come from factory farms hundreds of miles away.”

The price of local meats poses some cost challenges, because locally sourced meat can be two to four times as expensive, according to Martin. However, the cost drops in the summer due to lower transportation costs and the dining hall remains committed to sustainable sourcing.

“I think it’s just better: the quality is better, it’s the right thing to do. It makes sense,” Martin said.