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Cal Dining goes local for Food Day

Cal Dining celebrated Food Day 2014 (Friday, Oct. 24) by serving dinners made from locally grown and sustainably produced foods, from broccoli and rutabagas to persimmons and lemon mousse cake. A slideshow shows the action.

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UC Berkeley celebrated international Food Day 2014 by going super-local, no mean feat for such a big campus. On Friday night, dinners served in all Cal Dining cafes were made almost entirely from foods grown, produced or milled within 260 miles.

The roast chicken came from Mary’s in Sanger, the spring onions from Union City, butter beans from Iacopi in Half Moon Bay, and mushrooms from Colusa. Even the salt was local — from Giusti’s in San Francisco. The only exception was bread from Acme. Beet sugar, not cane, and honey were used as sweeteners, and no black pepper — grown in the tropics — was used.

“For our size we were hyper-local,” says Cal Dining Executive Director Shawn LaPean.

Many of the foods served for Food Day, like the Mary’s chicken, are already regulars on Cal Dining menus, which have long had a sustainable focus, LaPean adds. “In fact, it was a shock to how little our students customers understand how local we already are.”

While many campuses are still struggling to reach a goal of 20 percent sustainable food by 2020, Cal Dining has already hit 50 percent in its dining halls, and 38 percent overall, when catering and concessions are added in, according to manager Christina Voyles.

Friday night in each of the dining halls, a table displaying common foods and ingredients that come from afar — bananas, cane sugar, cereals, ketchup and other condiments — say by the door. None of the foods were used Friday night.

Berkeley has taken part in Food Day for the past four years. The national event aims to get people to think more about how their food is produced, and push change both in diets and in food policy.