College’s food vendor is deliciously progressive

Bon Appétit's philosophy tastes as good as its food

When Saint Joseph's food vendor Bon Appétit sponsored an "Eat Local" lunch recently, the food was not just home-cooked, it was homegrown. The menu featured Maine-grown ingredients - right down to the salt in the shaker.

"We wanted to boost the fresh flavor, support local growers - which ultimately helps the environment - and preserve local farms and traditions," says Stuart Leckie, general manager of dining operations at Saint Joseph's.

National food vendor Bon Appétit, whose only Maine "restaurant" operates at Saint Joseph's, is committed to working with local food suppliers beyond just one special day. Leckie gets his eggs year-round from Pittston, Maine, where free-range hens eat grain that is antibiotic-free and hormone-free. Leckie also gets his chicken from a Maine company that pledges to purchase antibiotic-free and growth hormone-free chicken. (For beef, he says an affordable product has not been found nationally.)

At Java Joe's Café on campus, Leckie has switched to local milk products from 50 hormone-free Holsteins at nearby Smiling Hill Farm. The farm has been in the family for seven generations, and the milk will sell in a glass bottle for easy recycling at Java Joe's.

When it comes to vegetables, Leckie's vendor uses local growers whenever possible to satisfy the Bon Appétit mission. Using local produce, however, is always dependent on cost, availability and quality, Leckie says.

"Eventually we want to have the majority of our items falling within our ‘Farm to Fork Program' and even use biodegradable containers in order to be completely true to the company motto of ‘Food Services for a Sustainable Future,'" Leckie says. "Eat Local" day featured vendor displays in the dining hall and pamphlets like "Top 10 Reasons to Eat Local." One of the best and most entertaining educational pieces was a continuously playing video called "Store Wars," featuring Chewbroccoli, Cuke Skywalker, Ham Solo, and Daft Tator.

The act of eating local, while seemingly simple, has far-reaching implications.

Food that is grown locally is fresher and more flavorful than food that is harvested early in order to be transported great distances. According to the Worldwatch Institute, food travels in the United States between 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table, as much as 25 percent farther than two decades ago. Shipping and trucking damages the environment in the form of global warming and air pollution. Eating locally also helps reduce the amount of gasoline involved in transporting food.

Buying from local growers also supports sustainable farming, which nourishes and replenishes the land and the towns around it.

Menu for "Eat Local" lunch

All ingredients from within 150 miles
(except for flour from Aroostook County)

Herb-roasted oven baked chicken
(from Mainely Poultry in Warren, Maine)
Boiled new potatoes with dill
Fresh-steamed green beans
Vegetable fritatta
Honey-roasted butternut squash
Colorful bean medley
Devon Black Angus beef stir fry
(grass-fed beef from Little Alaska Farms in Wales, Maine)

Tender beef sautéed with fresh garlic and herbs, with choice of: red peppers, hot peppers, tomato, green peppers, onions, roasted corn on the cob, & green beans

Seafood Newburg with haddock and scallops
(seafood from local fishermen supplied
by Butcher's Seafood in Casco, Maine)

Fresh linguini pasta
(Made in Bangor, Maine, by India Street Pasta)
Fresh-baked cheesy garlic bread

All ingredients within 150 miles, except yeast & flour
Flour from Aurora Mills in Linneus, Maine
Butter and milk from Smiling Hill Farm, Westbrook, Maine
Casco Bay Port from Blacksmith's Winery, Casco, Maine

Items throughout Café Bon Appétit
all from Maine via Farm Fresh Connection
(a broker for fresh Maine goods)
Carrots, lettuce, red peppers, green peppers,
hot peppers, fresh herbs, grape tomatoes,
sliced tomatoes, green beans, variety of apples, pears, fresh cheddar curd, Tuscan herbed curd, farmhouse cheddar,
assorted milks

Sea salt - Maine Sea Salt Co. Bailey Island, Maine (evaporated sea water from the Gulf of Maine)
Gifford's Ice Cream in Skowhegan, Maine

By Charmaine Daniels