With sustainable food options in the residential colleges set to expand dramatically this year, Berkeley College will lose its longtime status as the program’s flagship kitchen in the process, administrators announced Wednesday.
The move to balance food quality across the residential dining halls signals the end of the Yale Sustainable Food Project’s first phase, in which Berkeley served as a pilot kitchen to gauge the potential for purchasing food from local, environmentally-friendly suppliers. While sustainable options — often hailed as better tasting than their non-sustainable counterparts — will nearly double in most colleges, Berkeley’s options will decrease by about 60 percent as it adopts a standard University-wide menu.
YSFP Director Joshua Viertel said the expansion was possible in large part because Berkeley’s kitchen determined ways to refine menus and strike better deals with suppliers. The program’s increased efficiency, combined with a small funding increase and a shift of resources away from Berkeley, made administrators more comfortable with a wider implementation, Viertel said.
“Berkeley was in our eyes a utilitarian pilot,” Viertel said. “We’re entering a second pilot, a pilot of having this everywhere.”
In the residential colleges other than Berkeley, sustainable food options will increase from about 22 percent of the menu to 40 percent. Every lunch and dinner will feature at least one sustainable entree and side dish, and Thursday dinners will be 100 percent sustainable. The Thursday dinners are intended to make students more aware of the program’s effect, Viertel said.
“We heard from a lot of students and masters that if you just spread it across all meals then you never have that experience in Berkeley where it is all sustainable food,” he said.
In addition, the few sustainable dessert offerings available last year will increase to more than a dozen this semester. Special dinners, such as the annual Freshman and Senior Dinners, will feature fully sustainable menus.
Last spring, student groups including Food from the Earth and the Yale College Council circulated a petition advocating 100 percent sustainable food in all dining halls and distributed a survey to demonstrate student support for the project. Wells O’Byrne ’07, a former YCC representative who was involved in the campaign, said he was pleased with the administration’s decision despite the fact that it falls short of activists? goals.
“I think it’s wonderful that more people are going to have access to more YSFP,” he said. “There won’t be a divide between Berkeley and the rest of the colleges.”
Whether the program will ultimately feature a 100 percent sustainable menu depends on future efficiency and funding, said Ernst Huff, associate vice president for student financial and administrative services. Activist efforts may also play a role by highlighting the program’s popularity, he said, though they were not directly responsible for this year’s changes.
“The surveys and any evidence of student support went a long way to making the University feel a long-term commitment,” Huff said. “We’re quite pleased with getting to this level in a relatively short period of time, but any further expansion is dependent on the availability of resources.”
Berkeley students had mixed reactions to the news that their college will no longer serve as the gemstone of Yale’s dining services. John Benvenuto ’09, a Berkeley resident, said he recognized the inequality that has plagued other colleges until now but that he still felt disappointed.
“It definitely makes Berkeley less of a special thing,” he said.
On the other hand, Benvenuto added, Berkeley will no longer be so crowded that it must close its doors to transfer diners.
“It’s good to know that not everyone is going to be vying to get into Berkeley, and it won’t have a reputation for being pretentious and selective as to who goes in,” he said.
The change will not involve any major staff transfers, Huff said.
The YSFP expansion is also an important step in the Green movement among universities, Viertel said, noting that five other Ivy League schools have begun purchasing food from local suppliers since the Berkeley test kitchen was launched in 2003.