Editorial: On the importance of supporting local food sources

Pat Gareau, Creative Editor

Hudson Valley’s mission statement includes a commitment to “develop and foster beneficial relationships with the community.” The school also aims to “promote a spirit of community service among students, faculty, and staff.”

Although the FSA is technically independent of Hudson Valley, as a close partner to the school, it should reflect these purposes when making economic decisions. It should consider a policy of leveraging the college’s economic power to support local producers of food. Buying local is more environmentally friendly and keeps more money circulating in the local community.

Contracting food services with a multinational corporation like the Compass Group, and its subsidiary Chartwells, compromises the college’s ability to be as socially conscious as possible with its economic impact. A large share of the profits ultimately leave the Capital Region and supporting local producers is not as high a priority as profits.

While the college and the FSA are major positive forces in the community and are not violating the mission statement, improvements can always be made. One such action to further the college’s mission would be to develop a plan to support local farmers.

Chartwells does have partnerships with local producers but 8 to 10 percent of their purchases coming locally is still unsatisfactory. When choosing a contractor, the commitment to support businesses in the community should be a factor. During the five years of the newly negotiated contract with Chartwells, the FSA should make it clear that the highest business ethic is required from their business partner and this includes continuing progress in buying locally as much as possible.

The state higher education system at large is already advancing this policy with an initiative called SUNY Commits, launched last fall, but so far participants have been limited to big four year universities. UAlbany has been a partner in the initiative and advocates aim to increase the percentage of locally produced on campus to 50 percent by 2015.

Hudson Valley is not as big as the four year universities like UAlbany, but the college is still a major economic force. Every year the Capital Region receives over $50 million in income thanks to the school’s operations.

With over 10,000 students, the demand for food is high across campus. New York is a high output agricultural state and the Capital Region alone has over 4,000 farms. There is ample supply of local food.

Joining with the SUNY system in their buying local initiative would be good step in making sure the college’s economic impact is as positive as possible. Public institutions have a responsibility to make socially conscious decisions with tax dollars and higher education, more than anyone else, should be on the forefront of serving communities.

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