Yale Residential College Goes Organic
With the assistance of famed restaurateur Alice Waters, Yale’s Berkeley College will host a dinner on October 2 to launch its organic food campaign.
The event celebrates Berkeley’s commitment to offer organic fare in their dining hall beginning in the fall of 2003, with the aim of expanding the program to other colleges at the University.
The project marks the combined efforts of the Yale administration, student groups and dining service managers to make Yale the first large university to serve organic food as an integral part of the academic experience.
Founder and chef of the celebrated Chez Panisse, Waters is a passionate proponent of sustainable agriculture and is dedicated to raising awareness of the social function of food, from growing and harvesting to cooking and eating. She is on the board of the international organization Slow Food, and through the Chez Panisse Foundation, which she established in 1996, she supports a number of cultural and educational programs.
Last year she offered her support to student groups who were organizing a week-long festival of farms to promote local agriculture. The event, which brought many area farmers to campus, was planned to educate the Yale community about the benefits of eating locally raised, fresh food. Waters oversaw the preparation of the festival’s culminating organic feast, having enlisted former Chez Panisse cook Seen Lippert to execute it.
The student group Food from the Earth began working with Yale administrators and food service managers on ways for the University to adopt sustainable cuisine practices.
Ernst Huff, an associate vice president of the University whose jurisdiction includes the dining services, surveyed the 12 residential colleges-each with its own kitchen and dining hall-to find the most suitable one to test the transition from “conventional’ to organic.
Berkeley College was an obvious choice. For a long time, John Rogers, Master of Berkeley, and his wife Cornelia Pearsall, have been proponents of food grown without artificial pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering or irradiation-the four criteria that define the USDA standard of “organic.”
The Yale Sustainable Food Project, a newly formed committee made up of representatives from Berkeley College, student groups, Yale administrators and ARAMARK-the outside contractor that manages Yale’s dining services -is exploring ways to introduce large-scale institutional organic food management to the University. The process involves every aspect of dining services, from finding and contracting local suppliers to developing a system of composting.
Later this year, Yale will host a conference with other colleges from the northeast to exchange information and share experiences about bringing organic food to campus dining halls.
In the meantime, Berkeley will celebrate. With Waters as consultant, Lippert and the University’s head chef, John Turenne, are preparing a meal that will test the culinary limits of food that is good for the health and the environment.