I’ll be straightforward with you- going organic at UVA is not easy if you're unwilling to change any aspect of your daily routine. When I say not easy, I mean nearly impossible, assuming your routine is similar to mine.
The day began fine, I grabbed an organic granola bar on my way out to class. At noon, I headed to the Newcomb Dining Hall to see if I could stay organic without going hungry. It was a very crowded lunch like usual- people were pushing through to get the mediocre food they craved most. I scanned my options. I saw a ham sandwich which was guaranteed not organic (and not kosher) so I wasn’t even considering it. I saw a unique fruit salad, with spinach leaves, grapefruit, melon, and blue cheese; seemed pretty out of the ordinary, but it was certainly vegetarian. I saw some type of chicken rice concoction (see pictures) and of course the usual pizza and taco lines. To be frank, none of it looked appetizing regardless if it was organic or not, which brings up an important point. If it is difficult enough to eat healthy and to eat what you enjoy, searching for organic food limits your options and can (in this situation) lead to a diet lacking certain food groups.
I tried asking some of the people working at Newcomb where the organic food was. Some of them seemed unaware of the word “organic” while others simply had no idea. It looked as though I would not be getting an answer during lunch. Based on the quality of the meat and chicken, I stuck with a simple vegetarian lunch that day, with the hope that some of the fruits and vegetables I ate were organic.
Like a usual weekday, I returned to Newcomb for dinner. This time I was set to get straightforward answers about whether Newcomb has organic food or not. Like before, many of those working in the dining hall had no idea on the organic situation. I then talked to Ajia, the lady swiping student IDs. She couldn’t tell me what was organic or how much of the products in Newcomb were organic, but she did say if a student wants organic food, then he/she could speak to the chef to make them an organic meal. She referred me to one of her supervisors working on the other side of the Dining Hall who told me that occasionally students do ask for organic food from the chefs. I was interested to try this “organic food” and to determine what it consisted of, but I did not have the time to wait for this food to be prepared. The quest for this mysterious organic food was for another day. Yet, why is organic food at Newcomb such a secret? I searched all of Newcomb and there are no signs or notifications about the organic food. So, how do students find out? Then comes the question about the real value of this program- how many students have ten to fifteen minutes every day to wait for their meals to be prepared?
I can only assume that Newcomb is the most behind when it comes to organic products. Certainly Runk and O’hill must have other viable options (which I will explore later this week). Yet the most peculiar thing about Newcomb was that after I spoke with the supervisor about the (lack of) organic food in the dining halls, I pulled out my camera and began filming the food. She then burst out a comment about how I should not be filming here because the other supervisors will get mad and that I could get into trouble for it. How peculiar, when I travelled to Whole Foods two weeks ago and filmed the inside of the store none of the employees seemed to care. My friend said jokingly, “I bet it’s because Newcomb has health code violations”, and I think that is certainly a possibility. Maybe the supervisor believed I would report negatively on their products and lack of organic food options. Regardless, not being able to videotape food that I technically paid for means there is something fishing going on in Newcomb.
I did some research and I did see that Newcomb has recently had at least one organic meal for all the students who dine there. "Newcomb served organic Philly Cheese Steaks on Tuesday [9/15] (Singleton)”. I can only assume there are some organic products at Newcomb which do not have to be individually made, but just not known about to the public. It will be difficult but I will try to gain more information on these products.
Tomorrow: Eating Organically with Small Changes to Your Schedule (i.e. Changing Dining Halls)
Singleton, Kendall. “Harvest of Plenty”.9/16/09. C-Ville: Charlottesville News & Arts. 11/2/09.