To the undiscerning palette, milk from an industrial farm in Texas is no different than milk from a smaller, local farm in Maine. To those with sophisticated, discriminating senses of taste, the superior compositional qualities and subtly smooth consistency of local milk destroy the factory farm competition. Alright, maybe the difference isn’t actually so monumental. While it may not always taste so different, choosing to eat locally can benefit everyone, from producers and consumers, all the way to your grandma and her pet cat Sir-Mitts-A-Lot.

When you eat locally, you consume fresher foods that have maintained their nutritional integrity. Vitamins and other essential nutrients in food degrade with time and exposure to light, heat, and air. Compared to eating food that has traveled 2,000 miles, eating from a local farm provides you with food that has spent less time exposed to the things that compromise its nutritional qualities. In addition, smaller, family owned local farms tend to care more about the quality of the food that they are growing, as opposed to industrial farms that mass-produce and sell as quickly as possible to maximize profits. Now isn’t the cute little family owned farms the type that you would want to support anyway?

In addition to consuming fresher foods and supporting local farming businesses, eating local is significantly better for the environment. Bigger farms often use unsustainable practices, many of which deplete the soil of its nutrients and ruin ecosystems. In addition, the distance traveled from farm to plate is substantially greater when food is purchased from across the country than it is when food comes from within the state. Considering the amount of food Commons purchases for students, faculty, and staff, travel time between farm and plate can have a large effect on our carbon footprint as a school.

Over the years, Commons has taken numerous steps towards incorporating local foods into our dining options. In fact, Bates has maintained close ties with local farms since the early 1990’s. While most schools have been striving to spend even 20% of their dining budget on locally sourced foods, Commons spends 28-32% (depending on the time of year) of our dining budget on food from producers and farms in Maine. Not only are we purchasing locally, but we are selective in our sourcing, buying from suppliers such as GrandyOats in western Maine, which bakes with local and exclusively organic ingredients and is also the first food production facility in New England to fully abandon the use of fossil fuels.

Most local foods in Commons are labeled, so look out for those labels and feel free to ask Commons staff about local foods if you are unsure. In addition, Commons Healthy Eating and Wellness Society will be holding a pumpkin carving contest (pumpkins sourced locally of course) in Commons with great prizes (such as a $50 gift card to Forage) at the end of the month, so be sure to sign up if carving pumpkins is your thing. If carving isn’t your forte, an ongoing Instagram contest gives you the chance to win a $25 Guthrie’s gift card if you post a picture that encompasses what it means to eat local and tag @BatesCHEWS in your caption. The winner of the Instagram contest will be announced at our pumpkin carving event in Commons at the end of the month. Look for our notifications on the Bates Today email for more details. Here is a list of local foods that you can find in Commons (or at the Den):

GrandyOats Granola and Ancient Grains Hot Cereal

Oakhurst Dairy – milk, half & half, and other dairy products

Lepage Bakery – bread baked here in Lewiston

Borealis breads – locally produced, company owned by a Bates alum

Ground beef – 100% from local sources, natural sources including Cold Spring Ranch (owned by a Bates alum), Bubier’s Meats, and Maine Family Farms

Greenwood Orchards — apples and cider

Belanger & Sons — assorted produce

Italian Bakery — Den desserts, some breads

Sam’s Italian  Restaurant — some breads

Mailhot Sausage — breakfast sausage

Summit Springs water — bottled water of choice, recognized by MOFGA

Original Pizza — pizza dough

Gifford’s — ice cream

Maine Root and Cap’n Eli’s — assorted bottled sodas sold at the Den