Nick Gardner ‘19
At Williams, members of thinkFOOD work in student groups and dining committees to make the food Williams eats more environmentally and socially sustainable. Last year, thinkFOOD noticed some gaps in the food conversations in the college’s sustainability goals. Because agriculture, and specifically beef production, accounts for such significant greenhouse gas emissions, thinkFOOD decided to spark campus conversation about food sustainability by proposing a campus wide 50% industrial beef reduction. In the spring of 2016, after a widely attended community conversation and a petition with over 300 signatures, students voted for the reduction. Not only does the reduction signal the college’s more complete engagement with environmental and climate concerns, but it also represents a fundamentally new approach to confronting these issues. Instead of directing money towards sustainable campus choices (like the 50 million dollars the school has committed to green initiatives), 80% of the 700 students who voted chose to simply cut back and live differently. This year, thinkFOOD coordinated the reduction by communicating with chefs about which beef meals to take away, and by suggesting replacements that both serve the local community, and follow through with the motivation of the reduction.
ThinkFOOD has also been present at committee meetings with our primary food purveyors and worked to help write Williams Dining’s sustainable and responsible purchasing expectations for those purveyors. In the Dining Services committee meetings, members and dining services leaders pushed Ginsberg, an important food supplier for Williams to categorize all their products by the Realfood sustainable food categorization. In those same committee meetings, members of thinkFOOD offered dining services feedback and advice on how to make the meal plans more affordable and nutritious for the whole student body.
In addition to the committee work, thinkFOOD has participated in local farm visits and hosted community meals. The farm visits served to connect Dining Services with local farms, and in the case of Berlin’s Best produce the visit started what looks to be an exciting new relationship. During first semester, thinkFOOD hosted a community dinner where students cooked food together. This tradition has since become a new community organization called dinnertime, which has hosted monthly community dinners into spring semester.