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Food from the ground up

It's Sustainability Week and Wednesday is local food day. Today’s events include the weekly Farmer’s Market and Field to Fork, a celebration of local food in Leonard Hall. Each day during Sustainability Week (Oct. 6-10) the Gazette Online brings you a series of stories highlighting the week’s events and sustainability initiatives at Queen’s.

Each year, Queen’s Hospitality Services serve more than one million meals to students, staff and faculty. What many don’t realize, though, is how close to home that food comes from. 

Dining Halls such as Leonard and Ban Righ, as well as smaller outlets like the Lazy Scholar and the MC Square in Mackintosh-Corry Hall source the majority of their produce and ingredients from within the province, and make all of their food from scratch. For the 2013 operating year, a full 63 per cent of foodstuffs were procured from sources within Ontario.

A sign in Leonard Hall displays the day's local produce.

“People don’t just want their food to come from a package,” says Joli Manson, General Manager, Hospitality Services. “When we choose locally and when we make things from scratch, there’s a noticeable difference in quality. We make our decisions based on what is best quality, and our food shows that.”

That attitude is on display most prominently at the Canadian Grilling Company, where every part of the meals made are cooked from scratch, including the hamburger buns, made from local red fife wheat, never frozen proteins and even the ketchup.

“Making high quality food is our highest goal,” says Ms. Manson. “We’re not just here so you can fuel up, we’re here to nourish you, and that, to me, makes all the difference.”

Hospitality Services celebrate their support of local food, and post a list each day detailing what produce and ingredients come from local sources. They also hold special events, like Wednesday’s Field to Fork lunch in Leonard Hall. For Field to Fork the menu is specially catered to feature food from the local fall harvest, and a local folk-rock band, Turpin’s Trail, will be playing live music. Field to Fork event are held in the winter and spring as well to showcase local fare.

“The Field to Fork lunches are an opportunity for students to get acquainted with what’s produced locally at different times of the year,” says Ms. Manson. “We take an opportunity every season to celebrate farmers, who make our meals possible. They help us offer the very best because the very best is local.”

To encourage other institutional buyers to buy more local fare, Hospitality Services is partnering with Queen’s School of Business to host a local food conference on Oct. 31.

Learn more about sustainability initiatives at the Hospitality Services website