When talking to adults about their experiences with college dining, the responses are fairly similar: people scrunch up their faces with disgust and mutter about poorly-cooked meat or strange-looking stews.
Nowadays, good food is playing an increasingly important role in youth culture. Students are more health- and diet-conscious, organic, all natural, and sustainable ingredients are prominent in many restaurants and grocery stores, and students are more vocal about their interest in what they are eating. Campus dining services have maintained this trend and are continually improving to match the demand for high-quality food.
This is particularly evident at Wesleyan, where our dining service, Bon Appétit, is continuously working to provide University students with delicious, healthy, and environmentally friendly food products. Last Thursday’s Vendor Day, an event organized by executive chef Brian Dagnall, is a testament to the dining service’s dedication to the principles they promote.
The event featured 11 companies promoting their products in Usdan, Summerfields, and Weshop and offering giveaways and raffles.
Dagnall, who tries to incorporate locally grown, organic food into Wesleyan’s dining halls whenever possible, was excited to bridge the gap between food purveyors and students.
“I created Vendor Day with the hopes of showcasing our top vendors to the students, so they have a idea of where their food comes from,” Dagnall said.
Many of the vendors featured at the event have headquarters in the northeast, particularly in the New England area. Horse Listener’s Apple Orchard is close by in Ashford, Connecticut, Shana B. and the Pickle Bakery is in Avon, and Sid Wainer, Pierce Brothers Coffee, and Dole and Bailey (who provides much of Bon Appetit’s meat products) are all located in Massachusetts. The other vendors who participated, including alumni-owned and operated Ronnybrook Dairy, are no more than a two-hour drive away.
The vendors made it apparent that their values were similar to Bon Appétit’s. Both the vendors and the dining service seek to provide fresh, high quality products from small, family-owned companies that are genuinely passionate about their jobs and produce.
Ann Pearson and Mark Hanback, representatives from Ronnybrook Dairy who were handing out samples of their milk and yogurt drinks, both made a conscious decision to work at a small, family-owned farm.
“It’s never a dull moment,” Pearson said. “Each day is a little different, and it’s a very good work environment with a family atmosphere.”
The vendors don’t simply abide by a small-business ethos, but also believe they can provide higher-quality products. Darren Pierce, one of the Pierce brothers, was eager to explain to us the complicated process of making their coffee. He stressed the quality of their beans, which differentiates their products from other coffee drinks served on college campuses.
“It is also local, organic, and fair trade,” Pierce said.
Pierce also brought up what was reiterated by most of the vendors at the fair: Bon Appétit is one of the best dining services around, particularly because of their effort to involve small business.
“The farm-to-fork process allows small companies to get in on this business,” Pierce said.
The fair was well attended by the student body. Many seemed genuinely interested in learning more about Bon Appétit’s vendors and not simply in sampling the free fare.
“The student body is pretty aware of, informed about, and interested in the food that they are being offered,” said Aviva Hirsch ’16.
Jessica Gorak ’15 cited the dining service’s dedication to environmentally friendly food sourcing.
“Bon Appétit, through this event, is sharing with us their commitment toward a back-to-the-roots approach, as well as their use and concern for organic and local products,” she said.
Hirsch also claimed that Bon Appétit is without parallel.
“[It’s] the best college food you could ask for,” she said.