SUNY pledges to support locally-grown food

As part of a system-wide effort to support local food growers, State University of  New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced the implementation of SUNY Commits on Oct. 16. This program aims to facilitate the increased use of locally produced food and goods to support the areas that host the various SUNY schools. Along with thinking more locally, SUNY Commits also includes an educational aspect about the benefits of supporting local businesses.

According to a SUNY press release, this growing season alone saw SUNY purchase over 1,000 gallons of tomato sauce produced by New York State farms. The tomato sauce initiative utilized produce from several farms across the state and involved 12 different SUNY campuses, but did not include Geneseo.

According to Executive Director of Campus Auxiliary Services at Geneseo Mark Scott, the use of local foods in dining halls has already been implemented at Geneseo.

“We’ve been doing what we think is right for a very long time,” he said.

He pointed out that, over the past six years, Geneseo made an effort to support a variety of local businesses, including farmers. Geneseo was excluded from the distribution of the tomato sauce associated with SUNY Commits because the producers used for this particular distribution are located too far away.

According to CAS Marketing Coordinator Becky Stewart, in the past calendar year, Geneseo purchased 41,000 pounds of produce from the area through cooperation with a company called American Fruit and Vegetable.

Stewart said that a primary motivation for purchasing locally is to spread the economic benefits of the purchase of local goods to people in the area involved with production.

Director of Culinary Operations for CAS Jonna Anne said that, from her perspective in the realm of food preparation, there have been significant efforts to incorporate local foods, including the use of different techniques for preparing food obtained from the area.

Senior Maddy Smith, founder of Think Local Geneseo, a program that promotes the use of local foods in the town and campus of Geneseo, said she believes that colleges have a responsibility to conscientiously choose food, as they contain a significant and concentrated population of consumers.

Smith said she believes that the program is a step in the right direction, if it is carried out as it has been introduced.

“It’s great that they’re responding, but I don’t want to see it as a response to a fad. I want to see it as a step in a direction that is sustainable environmentally, socially and economically,” she said.

Smith said she does not see SUNY Commits as a direct remedy to the problem.

“The underlying issue is the fact that there’s not enough encouragement to produce a sustainable option on campuses,” she said.

Thus far, area farmers labeled SUNY Commits as a successful venture. The American Farm Trust’s Farm to Institution NYS Initiative awarded a $100,000 two-year grant to SUNY Commits.

While Geneseo was not involved in the tomato sauce initiative, the expansion of SUNY Commits as a result of the grant money could mean that the effects of the campaign will reach Geneseo students.