By Ollie Gratzinger | Staff Columnist
It’s that time of year again.
Taco Tuesdays at Options are becoming less and less crowded. The lines at The Market are shorter than they were weeks ago. Students are filing into their buildings with armfuls of instant noodles and microwave dinners.
It can only mean one thing: Students are running out of Flex.
Here at Duquesne, you learn pretty quickly that Flex is a precious commodity that is not, in fact, endless. Without it, your options are limited to the meal swipe deals at the Incline, Market and Options. But for a better variety, many will turn to Hogan Dining Hall for bottomless platefuls of pizza, salads, ice cream, sandwiches and whatever daily dish they’re cooking over in the vegan corner, all for the low price of one meal swipe. It certainly seems like a great alternative for the hungry freshmen, but is it?
Recently, the Terra Learning Community met at Hogan with Jamie Moore, Parkhurst’s director of sourcing and sustainability. There, students posed questions about the food. The following is a selection of the most Duquesne-relevant questions from the original list of 16, which have been edited for length:
Q: When did Parkhurst begin to consider organic food a priority on college campuses?
A: We use very little organic foods due to cost and product availability. However, we started purchasing locally-grown and produced food as far back as 2002. We believe that organic is nice, but if it is traveling 3,000 miles from California, we would rather focus on local.
Q: Are any of your meats Kosher?
A: We don’t currently source any Kosher meats for Duquesne University. If we had students that adhere to Kosher, I would assume we would then locate a source, but at this time, there isn’t a need.
(As a Jewish student who does, in fact, “adhere to Kosher,” I found it interesting that the university is not aware of students who follow this dietary guideline.)
Q: How do you decide which farms the vegetables would come from?
A: To be an approved supplier to provide us vegetables, the farm has to be GAP certified.
(GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices, which, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ensures that the food is safe and wholesome.)
Q: What are your thoughts on factory farming?
(Factory farming is, in short, a hyper-mechanical method of raising animals that relies on mass production.)
A: Factory farming is in place to feed this country. If we relied on the local farms to provide us meats, we would starve or people would have to reduce their intake of meat by 90 percent.
Q: How much of the food you buy goes to waste, and what do you do with it?
A: We haven’t done an actual audit to determine this, but we believe the amount of food taken on the plates that’s wasted by students is between 5 to 8 percent, and the waste from our kitchen is approximately 2 to 3 percent.
(According to Feeding America, this is much lower than the national average, which is between 25 to 40 percent.)
Q: I’ve noticed the “We Compost” sign above the dish drop-off in the dining hall. Any details concerning that?
A: We are doing mainly pre-consumer composting and, if applicable on the tray return line, all in Towers. Also … we will likely start composting in the Student Union sometime this semester. Duquesne’s facilities department has the stats on the tonnage of waste in the Towers Hogan Dining Center. It is over 100,000 pounds of waste.
Q: Have you considered donating the food that isn’t eaten?
A: We keep a very tight production schedule on our baked goods, and our goal is to run out of things rather than have leftovers. If there is a little bit of something left, we will use it up first the following day. Duquesne’s Campus Ministries is directly involved in our food donation program. At this time, St. Vincet DePaul Catholic Charities are receiving our food donations.
Moore also said that the proportion of sustainable purchases at Duquesne is struggling to reach 20 percent, which means that less that 20 percent of our food is organic, cage free, antibiotic free or fair-trade certified. He explained that it all links to student demand.
If we want sustainable things, it’s our voices that’ll bring the change we want to see. Hogan is definitely a plus for students craving variety and lacking Flex, but it’s up to us to make it even better.
These questions are as pervasive as they are unanswerable. Duquesne is doing its best to mix the best of both worlds, but it’s a process. If one thing is for sure, though, it’s that we’re taking baby steps in the right direction.