Reuben Haag has been working since 5 a.m., checking trays of sizzling pork roasts, directing farmers who are delivering truckloads of shiny apples, and helping his staff arrange festive pumpkins and cornstalks in the McEwen Courtyard. As executive chef to campus food provider Bon Appétit, Haag is no stranger to orchestrating large meals, but his duties differ a bit today. He is overseeing Hamilton’s sixth annual Eat Local Challenge, where even the autumnal decorations are local and grown by one of Haag’s colleagues in his own backyard.
Food has always been a conversation starter for students, but lately, local choices have become a particularly hot topic. That’s why it was no surprise when Hamilton became one of the first campuses to participate in the Eat Local Challenge. Since 2005, the Bon Appétit team has prepared a meal for the Hamilton community using as many ingredients as possible from within a 150-mile radius of campus. This year even the salt is regional, carted in from Watkins Glen.
Several days prior to the Challenge, students received an email from Bon Appétit General Manager Patrick Raynard, reminding them of the far-reaching implications of eating locally, including enhanced flavor, environmental friendliness and community involvement. Local food is fresher, tends to be grown with fewer chemicals and hormones, and requires less transportation energy. Yet both Raynard and Haag contend that eating local food rewards consumers most by sustaining communities. Supporting the local economy sustains the richly diverse agricultural traditions and bounty of Central New York. It is an idea that holds appeal for students and farmers alike.