T he discussion surrounding how Green Mountain College acquires its food has been
developing over the past twelve years, essentially since the college first started its own farm. The discussion has progressively intensified in a focus on meat and food ethics, pushing for policy changes in the college’s dining hall.
In the case of GMC, food policy change is complex, but thanks to the active participation
of many students and faculty, huge strides have already been taken towards improving the quality of food served in the dining hall.
One example of a progress taken is the fact that Chartwells is able to purchase food from our campus student-run Cerridwen Farm and other local sources. However, the amount of local foods that the company can afford to buy is still limited by budget.
Currently, GMC’s food policy is being advanced by the interest and discussion surrounding the highly publicized fate of Bill and Lou. This food policy change has the potential to eliminate factoryfarmed meat from the dining hall, instead offering only humanely-sourced meat.
Change in which all animal products served in the dining hall are humanely-sourced means that more money from Chartwells’s limited budget will be spent on meat, resulting in less meat served in the dining hall.
To assess the potential for food policy change, a campus-wide email was sent advertising a forum to be held in the Withey Hall Gorge on Wednesday, October 24. The forum, led by philosophy professor Steven Fesmire and sustainable agriculture professor Philip Ackerman-Leist, was well attended by both faculty and students.
The school’s past achievement of climate neutrality offers an example by which to model the transition in the dining hall. The purpose of the forum was to determine whether or not the proposal is a goal that the GMC community will support.
“One common trait in thousands of essays,” stated Professor Fesmire, is “the belief that our support of concentrated animal feeding operations is incompatible with our values”.
Currently, animal products served in the dining hall are purchased by Chartwells, GMC’s contracted dining service provider. Similarly, dining services around the country are either managed by contracted dining service providers or as a self-op.
“A self-op is not somewhere we can be right now,” stated Professor Ackerman-Leist, “so what we’re proposing here is all the more complex, all the more challenging.”
He stressed that working with a major dining service provider and inducing change in a corporate community is not going to be easy, and results will not be instantaneous.
“It’s going to take time, and that’s the critical and vital piece,” he said. In order to endorse the goal, the student body would need to be in support of lowering meat consumption in the dining hall.
Students in attendance of the forum expressed concern over the fact that they were essentially a self-selected group because they voluntarily chose to come to the meeting. In general, attendees were either involved on the campus farm or concerned about food issues. Squeaks from chairs in the dining hall above the Gorge made their way down into the room as a student pointed out that the opinions of students currently in the dining hall weren’t being presented.
Student Michael Sharry ’13 pointed out, “Not all students at GMC may vote in favor of a Meatless Monday or to have less meat available in the dining hall.”
The general agreement is that opinions of all students need to be taken into account before a policy can continue in the development process. In 2010, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production student Lisa Wilson ‘13 received responses from over 50% of the student body from a survey with over 90% of respondents voting in favor of lowering meat quantity in exchange for heightened quality.
Obtaining feedback from the entire student body will require multiple avenues of inquiry. If the proposal is approved by the student body, GMC can move forward, taking the step into extensive research, planning, and the eventual implementation of the project. If this measure takes effect, GMC will have taken a step that other colleges and universities with a contracted dining service provider have not yet been able to take.