Commons’ Local Night and Pollinator Project Aim to Support Local Food Systems

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Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Commons seeks to support the local food system through sourcing from local producers and supporting campus sustainability initatives such as the Bates Garden and Pollinaotr Project.

Fernando Rojas

Local Night

On Wednesday, May 12, Commons will feature Local Night – an opportunity to highlight the Maine products typically served in the Bates dining hall. This is an opportunity for students to reflect on the health, environmental, economic, and social benefits of choosing local foods

For example, because local produce doesn’t require lengthy transportation to reach us, it takes less chemicals and preservatives to stay fresh. Without the extensive distance imported foods need to travel, local products also have fewer negative environmental effects from fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Additionally, supporting local farmers and businesses strengthens the local economy as well as relationships amongst community members.

On Local Night, the majority of dishes will feature locally sourced foods, including burgers from Maine Family Farms in Portland, Italian style sausage from EW Mailhot’s in Lewiston, Heiwa Tofu from Rockport, sliced tomatoes from Backyard Farms in Madison, fries from Penobscot McCrum in Belfast, and breads from Sam’s Italian Foods and Country Kitchen in Lewiston. The turkey sandwich will feature Swiss cheese from Pineland Farms in New Gloucester and bread from Borealis in Waldoboro. As always, apples and dairy are sourced from Greenwood Orchards in Turner and Oakhurst Dairy in Portland.

Other local products featured throughout the year in Commons include vegetables from Belanger & Son’s in Lewiston and organic granola from GrandyOats in Hiram. GrandyOats products are produced in a solar-powered bakery where their panels are capable of offsetting 145,000 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions annually (the equivalent of driving roundtrip from Hiram, Maine to San Francisco 25 times!). Commons staff also harvest herbs from dining’s garden outside Commons. 

Lecturer in Humanities and Assistant Director of Writing Stephanie Wade is working in the herb garden with students from her “Community Writing & Gardens” class and is planning new signage to call attention to the area. Commons staff enjoy being part of the educational process at Bates and enjoy collaborating with classes and with individual students on their projects and theses.

Pollinator Project

In addition to Local Night, Sustainability Manager Tom Twist will host upcoming events that center around two food-related projects. The first is a planting event in the Bates garden (also known as The Plot) on Friday from 10-11 a.m. The second event is a collaboration between the Garden Club, Residence Life, Environmental Coalition, Facilities, and Wade’s “Community Writing and Gardens” course. 

The goal is to create a native pollinator garden behind Le Ronj on Frye Street. These pollinator plants were donated by Assistant Professor of Biology Carla Essenberg and her students, who grew them during their “Biological Inquiry: Growing Wildflowers” class. In the future, Twist and others involved in the project hope to plant more pollinator gardens around campus as a way to promote native habitats. 

The pollinator garden project is an example of how pollinators are economically, socially, and culturally important. Pollinated crops such as coffee and cocoa are important sources of income in developing countries. In general, more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops depend on pollination. Furthermore, biofuels, fibers, medicines, construction material, candles, and more are materialized from pollinated crops. Bees and other pollinators are inspiration for art, music, religion, and technology. People, literally, could not live without them.

Fernando Rojas ’22 is a student leader of CHEWs, Commons Healthy Eating and Wellness Society.