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Colby-Sawyer Student Initiative Leads to Local Foods on the Menu

A student-led initiative to secure 20 percent of the food items offered in Colby-Sawyer's dining hall from local sources sparked a successful partnership between students, college administrators and Sodexo Dining Services.

That goal was met this spring; 20.9 percent of Colby-Sawyer's food purchases come from sources located within 100 miles of the college. Chicken, pork, beef, soymilk, butter, bread, milk, yogurt and cage-free eggs are just a few of the local products now on the menu.

Students Made the Difference
“In the fall of 2012 a student came to me and said, 'I want local foods offered in the dining hall, how soon can we get it done?'” said Colby-Sawyer Director of Sustainability Jen White '90. “Unfortunately it's not that easy, but the students, the college and Sodexo worked together to make it happen.”

That student was Garrett Dunnells '15. His desire for local foods in the dining hall set him on the mission of collecting student signatures, and then making students' interest in local foods known to Sodexo and the college. His petition gathered signatures from more than half the college's 1,400 students.

“We were inspired by the petition to direct our energy toward becoming a more sustainable operation,” said General Manager of Dining Services Mike Heffernan. “Students wanted at least 20 percent of the food offered to be sourced locally, and after a year and a half of research and networking, we are there.”

Colby-Sawyer senior Jon Wylie, another student who worked with the college and Sodexo to make this change, is happy with the results of students' efforts and has high hopes of increasing the percentage of local foods. “I don't think we should be complacent,” he said. “There is still room for improvement, and I believe we can push even further.”

Local Partners, Local Food
Black River Produce, a Vermont-based vendor that provides Sodexo at Colby-Sawyer with the majority of its food, has worked with Sodexo to source local products, including some meat products processed at their own plant, whenever possible.

Although winter makes it hard to procure local produce, Colby-Sawyer uses what is available and meets the 20 percent goal by focusing on proteins. All of the pork and beef products, and 50 percent of the chicken, offered in the dining hall at Ware Student Center are from local farms.

Going local means much more than growing the local economy, though, according to Heffernan. “To me it's more than just trying to solve a little problem. We are looking at the bigger picture, and being part of the solution to a huge problem,” he said.

By buying local, Colby-Sawyer depends less on trucks bringing out-of-season goods across the country, thereby reducing fuel consumption and minimizing the college's negative environmental impact while maximizing the food's freshness and nutritional value.

“I am hopeful for the future because we have students who care,” said Heffernan.

For the student who started it all, the takeaway was to speak up. “I've learned that if students do not speak up and let the college know what they want, changes aren't going to happen,” said Dunnells.

Other Sustainability Initiatives in the Dining Hall
Whether it is becoming the first Fair-Trade Certified private college in New Hampshire, implementing the first college-run food recovery program in the state or incorporating a significant percentage of local foods into its menus, Colby-Sawyer College's dining hall continues to make strides toward becoming a more sustainable enterprise by making student health and community stability a priority while minimizing its environmental impact.

Colby-Sawyer's Local Partners
Baker's Dozen – Essex Junction, Vt.

Black River Produce – North Springfield, Vt.

Carando Salami – Springfield, Mass.

Carla's Pasta – South Windsor, Conn.

Divine Line Foods – Exeter, N.H.

Gifford's Ice Cream – Skowhegan, Maine

Gold Medal Bakery – Fall River, Mass.

Grandy Oats Granola – Brownfield, Maine

HP Hood– Concord, N.H.

Joseph's Wraps – Lowell, Mass.

Koffee Kup Bakery – Burlington, Vt.

Maple Brook Fine Cheese – Bennington, Vt.

Misty Knoll Farms – New Haven, Vt.

NorthCenter Foodservice Corp. – Augusta, Maine

Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs – Monroe, N.H.

Stonyfield Yogurt – Londonderry, N.H.

Vermont Fresh Foods – Proctorville, Vt.

Vermont Soy – Hardwick, Vt.

– Jacqueline Susmann '14
Jacqueline Susmann is a Creative Writing major at Colby-Sawyer College and an intern for College Communications.

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire. Learn more about the college's vibrant teaching and learning community at

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000