On Wednesday, The New York Times had an article on colleges adding locally grown food to their menus. The article mentioned Bates, Kenyon, Middlebury and Oberlin, but not Williams.

At this point, at least this Williams alum thought, “Hmm… I know Williams is doing some of this; I wonder what the Williams-specific take on this is.” And then, viola, I discovered this was covered in Jocelyn Gardner’s senior thesis for Human Ecology and Environmental Studies entitled, “Think Globally, Eat Locally: An Analysis of Williams College’s Food Consumption.”

If you’re wondering about the dynamics of offering locally grown produce and running a college food service, this makes pretty interesting reading, as she takes the time to set the problem in context. Jocelyn spends the first 30 pages describing the history of agriculture in the U.S., the next 20 talking about Berkshires agriculture, and then the next 25 about food consumption and Dining Services at Williams. She closes with five pages of recommendations.

Some factoids. During the 2003-2004 academic year, Williams served 775,000 meals and spent $2.44 million buying food. Meat, fish, and poultry was 34% of that expenditure, fruits and vegetables was 11%. Williams spent $13,830.77 on hot dogs and $4,880.78 on cottage cheese. Per capita consumption of beef for the year was 32.1 pounds; ice cream, 25.9 pounds.

She has some heartbreaking quotes from Bershire farmers who have had to get out of the business, and discusses the tradeoffs that Dining Services has to consider in order to offer fresh and interesting food without breaking the bank. Highly recommended.

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