Monday, May 13, 2013

Take Pride in Your Plate: Map Shows Connections to Local Farms

The Bastyr Dining Commons has a colorful new reminder of the Northwest farms and fisheries that supply its organic meals.

Oba standing by farm board
Dietetic Intern Liz Oba with the map she drew for the Bastyr Dining Commons.

On the menu recently at the Bastyr University Dining Commons: Kale from Spring Hill Farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Beets from Montecucco Farms near Portland. Turkey from Carlton Farms across the Cascade Mountains. Trout from the Columbia River. And dozens more organic foods grown in the Pacific Northwest.

Now the dining commons has a new reminder of its commitment to serving local (and delicious) food: a large colorful map that shows where it sources its ingredients.

Map of Pacific Northwest farms.The idea came from Bastyr dietetic intern Liz Oba, who worked a rotation in the Bastyr kitchen planning menus, learning about cost strategies and shadowing cooks.

"Being behind the scenes, seeing how hard everybody works to prepare the food and knowing what it costs to get local, organic food, I wanted to show people that this is high-quality food," Oba says. "I wanted to make that connection more clear."

So she drew the map on a white board donated by facilities staff. The map hangs near the dining commons cash registers — to remind diners what they're paying for, Oba says.

"This is about as good you can get for a dining services establishment doing farm-to-table sourcing," she says.

The dining commons sources 99 percent of its ingredients from organic farms, mostly in the Pacific Northwest (see the rest of its green efforts on our sustainability page).

Oba hopes the map will serve as a reminder of the culinary wealth of the region, where the temperate climate allows farmers to grow crops that struggle in other parts of the country.

It's also a reminder of the benefits of local, organic food — freshness, safety from pesticides (for both eaters and farm workers), profits that stay in the community, and local owners who care for the well-being of soil and waterways.

Bastyr nutrition alumna Valerie Segrest likes to recount one of her professor's explanations for local foods: "One of my teachers, Cynthia Lair, would say: 'How do you feel when you get off an airplane? I feel tired and sore and I want to shower because I've been sitting in everyone else's breath. That's how a blueberry feels after it's flown from New Zealand.'"

You won't find jet-lagged blueberries in the dining commons — you'll find homegrown ones.

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