Yale University, CT Sustainable Food Project
Every day, food offers us the opportunity to engage with the world around us. By gathering people around shared food, shared work, and shared inquiry, the Yale Sustainable Food Project fosters a culture that draws meaning and pleasure from the connections among people, land, and food.
The Sustainable Food Project directs a sustainable dining program at Yale, manages an organic farm on campus, and runs diverse programs that support exploration and academic inquiry related to food and agriculture.
The world’s most pressing questions regarding health, culture, the environment, education, and the global economy cannot be adequately addressed without considering the food we eat and the way we produce it. By creating opportunities for students to experience food, agriculture, and sustainability as integral parts of their education and everyday life, the Sustainable Food Project ensures that Yale graduates have the capacity to effect meaningful change as individuals and as leaders in their communities, their homes, and their life’s work.
Since 2002, the Sustainable Food Project and Yale University Dining Services have collaborated to change the culture of food at Yale. We started with the premise that our food choices have an ethical and ecological impact, and that the best tasting food is local, seasonal, and sustainable. Our buying practices aim to nourish the well-being of those eating and working at Yale, contribute to the vitality of agricultural communities, and protect the long-term health of the environment. Our choices about food are integral to the University’s goals of becoming a sustainable institution.
Today, sustainable food is flourishing at Yale. The dining halls have long been the center of a vital residential college life, and students have made it evident that sustainable food adds to the richness of their college experience. Each college now serves the same sustainable food: ; a fully sustainable meal at Sunday brunches, Thursday lunches, and Wednesday and Thursday dinners; a sustainable entrée and side at every lunch and dinner; organic milk, coffee, yogurt, tea, bananas, granola, and tomato sauce at every meal. We aim for each of the 1.8 million meals Yale’s dining halls serve each year to feature entirely local, seasonal, and sustainable food. We think this will result in the best food ever shared at Yale; food that can be eaten with full, honest pleasure.
Good food can be good for everyone, farmer to consumer. Buying locally means we build a strong regional economy by creating jobs and preserving farmland in the region. Eating locally means we eat in season, when food is at its best: sliced heirloom tomatoes in the fall; sweet, roasted parsnips in the winter; grilled asparagus in the spring. Quality ingredients allow recipes to be simple and straightforward. Every meal we serve is an opportunity to teach students the connection between their everyday acts and their ethics. As these students go out into the world as leaders, they will understand sustainability as part of a world vision that is manifest in everyday operations.
At the Yale Farm, students, faculty, staff and community members come together to learn about the connection between land and food. The Farm, a 15-minute walk north of the Old Campus, hosts workshops, seminars, volunteer workdays, and tours for local school children. Working in this four-season market garden teaches the principles of sustainability and the practices of sustainable agriculture.
Throughout the school year, the Farm hosts weekly volunteer workdays from 1-4 on Sundays and Fridays, sharing pizza from the hearth oven with volunteers after our Friday workdays. Yale Professors from several departments use the Farm as a resource in their coursework, and teachers from New Haven schools bring their classes to the farm for lessons in ecology, science, and food production. Each summer, six undergraduate interns spend their summer working the land and learning deeply about sustainability, food and agriculture. And each spring and autumn, new students gather around the hearth oven to share pizza during Bulldog Days and before leaving on pre-orientation trips in the fall.
Crops are raised throughout the year, with hardy greens spending the winter months in unheated greenhouses. The harvest is given to volunteers or sold at CitySeed’s Wooster Square Farmers’ Market. The Union League, one of New Haven’s most highly regarded restaurants, regularly features produce from the Farm. In an urban area like New Haven, that’s as locally grown as it gets.
The Farm was established in May 2003, when the Project’s first group of student interns cleared dying hemlock trees, poison ivy, shrubs, and weeds from a forgotten corner of Farnam Gardens. Today, it is a lush, productive, organic farm that produces hundreds of varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. In growing, distributing, and eating this bounty, volunteers learn about sustainability first hand. The Yale Farm seeks to model focused, efficient, and sustainable practices that are economically viable and ecologically sound. It produces beautiful, abundant, and delicious food while engaging in agricultural practices that can be continued indefinitely without causing degradation to the biological systems on which they rely.