Emory Report
February 18, 2008
Volume 60, Number 20

Sustainable summit
Student delegates converged for the first-ever Sustainable Summit on Food Feb. 7 and 9. Designed to raise awareness of sustainable food issues on campus, the summit began with a discussion about issues such as fair trade, grass-fed beef and cooperatives.

Participants then divided into groups to design a one-day menu and budget of ethically driven food services.

“All of the groups had a very strong commitment to fair trade and local foods,” explains sophomore Emily Cumbie-Drake, a summit facilitator. “Students felt that even though fair trade and local products were slightly more expensive, the impact that choice made across the world was so much greater.”

Student recommendations will be considered during regular updates to the food purchasing guidelines.

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February 18, 2008
Where does our food come from?


Have you noticed the new organic sandwiches and snacks in the Fresh Market at Cox Hall? The seasonal local vegetables at the Dobbs University Center? The new local, natural and organic ice cream program at The Depot? What about fair trade and organic coffee available across campus, or the growth-hormone free, regionally made milk at all Emory food vendors?

These changes are just the tip of the iceberg in Emory’s sustainable food initiative.

Working with Emory Dining and Emory Hospitals to implement the goal of procuring 75 percent of ingredients from local or sustainably grown sources by 2015, the campus efforts detailed in the sustainable food initiative include food service supply changes, community gardens and a future Emory farm. A weekly Farmer’s Market is slated to begin this spring on the Cox Hall bridge.

“We knew we could and had to change the economy of the Southeast in order to begin to use regional products,” explains Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology Peggy Barlett, chair of the Sustainable Food Committee.

The committee recently approved a set of detailed food purchasing guidelines for everything from grains to seafood.

With overarching themes of health, safety and support of the local economy, these guidelines are in lieu of a specific plan of action, Barlett says.

“There is a movement across the country to become more sustainable, so many food suppliers are adapting better practices,” Barlett explains. “We are doing our best to be as flexible as possible and to not constrain ourselves by one plan of action because it is a fluid market with constant changes.”

Such fluidity has allowed for rapid changes in just over a year. Emory’s local food purchases have increased 35 percent since January 2007.

The recent purchase of a dehydrator, a blast chiller and a Cryovac machine allows food vendors to purchase larger quantities of local produce during the summer and fall months and to preserve them for later use in sauces, soups and ice cream.

“Emory’s goal is a goal with teeth,” Barlett says. “It is a goal that is doable. Emory is taking a leadership stance that has been applauded across Atlanta and the nation.”

Waste not, want not with composting

By David Payne

Emory Dining this month launched a composting pilot program at Cox Hall that will revolutionize the way food waste is disposed on campus.

The composter, described as a “self-contained bio-reactor,” does not grind food waste like a disposal, but rather uses environmentally friendly microorganisms that break down the waste. Water is removed, or “wrung,” from the waste and collected.

“Every 24 hours, the composter can break down 1,200 pounds of food waste with environmentally friendly microorganisms,” says Patty Erbach, Emory Dining’s food service liaison. “The byproduct is about 250 gallons of non-potable water.”

This water, a “composting tea,” dark brown and rich in nutrients, is ideal for Emory landscaping during the drought.

According to Erbach, this is a big step closer to Emory’s goal of 95 percent food waste recycling, part of the University’s sustainability initiatives.

To make composting easier, ultimately Emory plans to switch to corn- or potato-based cutlery, which can also be composted by this machine.

What’s next? If the pilot program is successful, Emory Dining hopes to expand it to additional food outlets on campus, like Ultimate Dining at the DUC, Emory Conference Center Hotel and others.