Dining services draws from near and far states to stock farmers market
As the summer winds down and the growing season slows, the university’s farmers market located at Mentors’ Circle will continue to sell produce every Thursday until Sept. 13. Though the market touts its focus on local foods, shoppers can still expect to see produce shipped from as far away as Virginia, in addition to an assortment of Pepsi products.
Among the tables occupying Mentors’ Circle every Thursday is Dining Services, which offers an assortment of baked goods, Pepsi drinks and a chef’s table seasonally-inspired entree, in addition to a variety of produce.
Though Dining Services––which has a contract with Aramark––continues to sell at the market, a South Campus farm maintained by students also participated for the first time this year.
An article published in The Review last year juxtaposed the dining services market with a nearby farm stand, comparing the locality of the two sellers. While the farmstand sold primarily produce from Pennsylvania, the dining services sold produce from a variety of locations, including North Carolina.
Sophomore plant science major Alexandra Keith interns for the farm on South Campus and said she does not believe food should be labeled “local” when it is coming from so far away.
“I think that it is crucial, especially for a state school, to support farmers’ produce that was grown in the state instead of supporting the farmers who aren’t represented at the markets in Virginia or New Jersey,” Keith said. “I think the farmers market is supposed to be local, or else how is it a true farmers market, if it is not from a local farm?”
Andersen, whose job involved ordering produce for the dining services area at the farmers market this summer, said locality is a focus of theirs.
The farmers market makes roughly $800 to $1,000 a day, according to university dining services employee Megan Andersen. She said she expects profits will increase now that more students have returned for the fall semester.
This is the fifth consecutive year dining services is participating in the campus farmers market. Customers at the market may use cash and flex to purchase a variety of fruits and vegetables from 21 different farms shipped from Pennsylvania all the way to Virginia.
“We try to order as locally as possible,” Andersen said. “However, we want a variety of produce so that is why we have to order produce from other states.”
Signs at the market label the produce as “local” and are accompanied by a large chart nearby the checkout showing the location and name of the farm where the produce was grown.
“We consider anything within the tri-state area “local” here at the farmers market, and if people ask about where the product came from, we explain to the customer where it grew,” Andersen said. “We are just trying to get the most fresh ingredients.”
The interpretation of the term “local” can vary, depending who you ask. Senior nutrition major Jackie LiPera interpreted local to mean, in this case, food from nearby Pennsylvania or Delaware farms.
“When I saw the sign that said ‘local,’ I assumed the produce came from either Pennsylvania or Delaware, but I wasn’t expecting it to come from as far as Virginia,” LiPera said.
Keith also said locality is something she values and seeks out while at a farmers market.
“When I am attending a farmers market, I look out for produce that is obviously not grown in this region and only purchase produce that is actually local as in within 100 miles from here,” Keith said.
Andersen, whose job involves contacting each farm, said dining services also always tries to order organic, but sometimes that is not always available.
LiPera said as a consumer she feels it is more important for the products sold at a farmers market to be organic rather than local.
Along with produce and baked goods, a cooler filled with Pepsi products is sold at the market. Andersen explained why these items––although not grown or created locally––are sold at the farmers market.
“We buy Pepsi products because the UD dining services has a contract with the company Aramark,” she said. “Aramark also has a deal with Pepsi so the farmers market provides people with drink options if they choose to eat lunch there.”
LiPera commended the idea behind the farmers market, but said she believes there should be transparency about the foods and products sold there.
“I think that this is a really good concept to bring onto campus,” LiPera said. ”But there should be a more honest relationship about the origin of the food being sold.”