Meeting Minutes – March 10, 2008

Posted on March 10th, 2008 by

Present: Jim Dontje, Judy Douglas, Deborah Downs-Miers, Chris Edelbrock, Lauren Fulner, Stacy Gerken, Colin Gettle, Lisa Heldke, Bruce Johnson, Steve Kfjellgren, John Mattson, Al Molde

Next meeting: March 31, 4:30, aim for PDR

Agenda Items

1. Choices at the Table Intern: Colin

Colin passed around a couple sample posters he’s designing, to raise diners’ awareness to local foods choices, issues, and importance. He plans to rotate this information regularly. Committee members discussed the importance of also getting out the information about local foods already available in the cafeteria, since at present the Dining Service buys all the local foods that are available.

Lisa volunteered to put “locally grown” promotional materials in place during spring break, if Colin gets them assembled. This could facilitate a bit of a “grand unveiling” after the break, making everyone think that suddenly the Dining Service has just started purchasing local foods!

Colin’s office hours are (roughly): Tuesday, 12-1 and Wednesday, 12:30-1:30.

Committee member to-do: Send Colin your ideas for raising consumer awareness.

2. Recyclable To-Go Containers, Take 75: Steve

Steve brought a variety of plastic and aluminum to-go containers for the group to examine. He discussed the merits and demerits of various items (leakage, cost, plastic)

Jim suggested that we might consider treating the cost of replacing the regular dishes as a “deposit,” making that cost more visible up front to consumers.

Lisa asked if regular to-go boxes would be eliminated. No, but they would cost a dollar. Off-campus consumers would be charged a different price.

Chris will bring the various options before Student Senate to get their feedback.

Committee member to-do: Send Steve your container suggestions, and your ideas, worries and hopes about a deposit program. The goal is for this to be able to begin running next Fall.

3. Questions: John

John raised two questions, as a new committee member:

a. Do we compost? John has been to see the St. Olaf facility and was wondering whether something like that could be done at Gustavus. This question has a complicated answer, depending upon what our current waste company is doing. We do extrude water from food waste, but it is then mixed in with regular garbage. Pre-consumer food waste goes into the garbage as is; this is the material that would be most likely compostable.

Steve will send committee members a copy of the documents Physical Plant currently distributes, regarding our composting policies.

Jim is interested in getting a student to explore the feasibility of an anaerobic digester for waste, which would produce methane gas and also a slurry that could be used as compost. He noted that the St. Olaf facility currently costs quite a lot to run. The digester would be more cost effective.

Judy suggested contacting, e.g., the Schmidt Foundation to see about grants for such a project. Jim observed that creating a community facility would be the most cost effective thing to do. He is also interested in getting a student to do a research project to assess the level of need and interest in the community for such a facility.

b. Disposable plastic forks? Can we use the corn-based ones? Steve reports that he’s not convinced that the added expense (they are four times as costly) will actually be environmentally worth it.

4. Public Discourse: Steve

One course (Comm: Public Discourse) at Gustavus regularly sets students the project of identifying something that needs changing at Gustavus, and creating a packet of informational material aimed at changing something. This course last year produced the allergen project, the results of which Steve shared with the committee. At present, there’s a certain “reinventing the wheel” quality to the course, with people like Steve and Warren Wunderlich answering the same questions each semester. Steve asks about whether this is just the price of doing bidness [your reward for reading this far in the minutes: a joke], or is there some more effective way to address these kinds of projects? This question generated a number of recommendations:

  • Talk with profs about the work they’re requiring, and ask them to help students think through more the matter of how change happens. (Bruce)
  • Create projects that last longer than a semester, and ask courses to do some long-term buy in on projects (Jim, Lisa)
  • Create a series of integrated FTS courses that begin students on projects that they will take on for several semesters (Deborah)
  • Integrate the learning/living communities into this (Judy)
  • Use the info students are creating, and put it on a webpage, either a Dining Service webpage, or an “environmentalism at Gustavus” portal page. (Lisa, Jim) Create an FYI, or FAQ page.
  • Lisa’s after-the-fact comment: I’ve convened a meeting for Wednesday, March 19 at 8 a.m. of persons who might have some investment in this issue. Feel free to join us in the Dining Service, if you’d like to participate in a discussion about this.

5. Purposeful, Relaxing Dining: Judy

Fresh from the successful January Term Italian Night subsidized by CAB, Judy asks if we might not reproduce this sort of experience on a regular basis. Colin averred that this would be very popular with students indeed. Several ideas came from this request also:

  • What if we did this once a month, with students going through the regular line, but entering the other dining rooms, where there would be candles, tablecloths and music? (Steve)
  • What about a kickoff event during “Mind Your Health” week, April 7th? (Judy)
  • What about a “Students Talking” event similar to Teachers Talking, with a topic and perhaps an informal speaker? (Al)

Lisa’s after-the-meeting thought: would there be any way for such events to be fundraisers? What if everyone paid an extra buck for table service, and the organization members did the table serving?

Committee member to-do: Send Judy ideas for purposeful dining events. Invite student groups you know to consider how they might host or organize such an event.

6. Hierarchy of Choices: Lisa

In the last minutes, Steve noted that 70-80% of purchasing decisions made in Dining Service are intentional, and asked whether we ought to cultivate a “hierarchy of priorities” regarding those choices. Organic? Local? Trans-fat-free? In a brief conversation, committee members discussed the following:

  • Three groups of students under Bruce are working with the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota on questions about local food and consumer choice. He will keep us in the loop about their findings.
  • Who are we to make choices for others about, say, organic food? (Steve)
  • We are the people! (Deborah) And we do make choices for people regularly—e.g. by not selling cigarettes on campus, or alcohol (Lisa, John).
  • The Counseling Center is currently reading a book (The Chemistry of Joy) about the ways in which food consumption translates directly to the production or nonproduction of various brain chemicals; do we have an obligation to our students to provide them with food that is going to optimize brain development?
  • Lisa’s after-the-fact comment: NYC banned trans fats! Many municipalities are making ethical choices with their food. Gustavus has made moral choices with, say, its investment portfolio in the past. Such choices are well within our purview. A question is: what might those decisions be, and how might we most fully get community buy in for them? (Note that when we divested from S. Africa, for instance, the college held a series of open meetings to discuss the matter. Hank has asked us to consider some such fora ourselves; perhaps the time is right?)

Committee member to-do: do you think the committee should take up this issue? If so, in what forms? A public comment period? Community conversations? A unilateral decision about various purchasing choices by, say, this committee in consultation with various higher-level administrators? Other? Some of the above? None of the above?


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