Berkeley dining hall to offer organic food

Yale is planning to expand its organic offerings — in the Berkeley College dining hall, not on Science Hill.

Berkeley Master John Rogers, accompanied by various members of the college’s dining hall staff and about nine students, attended “A Celebration of Connecticut Farms in Washington Depot” this Sunday. Ernst Huff, the associate vice president of student financial and administrative services, said the excursion was part of Yale’s effort to become more organic, beginning with the Berkeley dining hall in fall 2003.

Huff said Yale Dining Services has already begun to plan but is moving cautiously.

“We’re not sure exactly whether it would be completely organic,” Huff said. “We’re starting very conservatively to determine exactly what our objectives will be, but the desire is to go as far as we can with utilizing products that are grown organically.”

Huff said dining services chose Berkeley because Rogers was supportive of the idea and because Yale wanted to begin the program in a limited environment.

In an e-mail to Berkeley students, Rogers said the inspiration for the project was chef Alice Waters, who gave a Master’s Tea in Berkeley on Monday and was one of the featured speakers at the Washington Depot event.

The tea featured organic fruits and baked goods made in the Berkeley dining hall, Noah Chesnin ’04 said.

“It was really exciting to taste what could happen and what is possible when the organic ingredients were used,” Chesnin said.

Huff said education is a priority throughout the process of phasing in more organic products.

“[We’re] making sure that we involve students as much as possible, and we educate both students and others at the University about what this means and the relationship between the land and the products of the land and the community with which they’re eating,” Huff said.

Wayne Chang ’04, who attended the Meryl Streep-hosted fund-raiser in Washington Depot, said he enjoyed tasting food and beverages from various restaurants. Though he said it was fun for students to attend, Chang added that he thought a major part of the event was to help educate the dining hall workers about organic foods.

“Master Rogers brought a lot of our dining hall people so they could eat food and ask questions about how organic food was prepared,” Chang said. “A huge part of this was to train our dining hall workers and chefs. Students were lucky to go and have a good time.”

Chesnin said that though plans are still preliminary, he foresees that moving toward more organic foods and more locally grown produce might cut down on the variety of produce offered in the dining halls.

“That’s something Yale students will have to get used to,” Chesnin said. “It’s not like it’s going to be necessarily a bad thing — just different types of vegetables will be offered in the winter than previously.”

Chang said his main concern about the possible addition of more organic food to the dining hall is whether it would drive up the cost of the meal plan.

“I think if we can afford it, it’s definitely a good choice, but I don’t know how much it would cost or how inorganic our current food is,” Chang said. “I think I’d have to really understand what kind of food we’re eating right now and what they would bring, and if fees would increase, and if so, how much. I think it sounds like a good idea, but I would really need more information to really know and choose.”

Huff said that at this time, there is no plan to increase board fees, although a future increase is possible. He added that if the trial period in Berkeley is successful, Yale will expand the offerings to other dining halls.

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