During lunch today, I went to O’Hill Dining Hall opposed to Newcomb where I typically go on weekdays. At first sight, O’Hill looks a lot nicer then Newcomb, and its food does too. I took a look around- there were plenty of healthy options today including a section just for healthy foods (and one for vegans also). Although the options were more visually appealing that didn’t mean they necessarily organic products. At first, there was no way to tell what was organic or not. Like yesterday, I consumed a primarily vegetarian meal of food products that seemed somewhat fresh and healthy. Yet, as I was leaving I asked one of O’Hill personnel if she knew which food was considered organic. Although she had no idea, she brought me to one of the managers of O’Hill. He courteously told me about the financial restrictions to make all products organic, but he did say there are a fair number of items that are organic day to day. He knew for sure that the lettuce for the salad bar is organic. With his permission, I went into the freezer at O’Hill where he showed me the lettuce and the company it came from. One brand name I saw was “Taylor Farm”, which comes from (at least its headquarters are around) Salinas, California. Coming from all the way across the country doesn’t fit the organic concept in my eyes, but regardless it was guaranteed fresh without the use of fertilizers or pesticides. Still, it was being kept away and frozen in the back of O’Hill. I asked what organic certification it had. The manager said that because the lettuce was sent it bulk they did not show its certification (which made me question if it has certification whatsoever). But due to the manager’s openness with this project and his honesty with the “organic” products- I will take his word in that the lettuce is organically certified although it comes from the other side of the country.
The manager mentioned that a large number of their organic products come from Wolf Creek Farm in Ararat, Virginia- which is actually local. I didn’t get to see which products come from this farm, but I could only assume if they are local and organic, they are probably in better shape than the lettuce that came from California.
Yet despite my reaction towards what O’Hill calls “organic”, it is certainly an improvement from Newcomb’s Dining Hall. Yet in Newcomb, I was told that I could ask for an organic meal, whereas that was not an option in O’Hill. I will find sometime this week, what exactly this organic meal is. The fact alone that the manager brought a student asking about organic products and sustainability into the freezer of O’Hill makes me feel as if they have nothing to be ashamed in, and they may even be proud of their organic products. I will say that although the rest of O’Hill’s products which are not organic may not be as fresh as a product that is locally and sustainably produced, they sure have a higher quality then Newcomb’s food (generally speaking).
First I went to Newcomb and saw next to nothing in regards to organic. Then I went to O’Hill where I found some but not many options. For dinner, I went to Runk Dining Hall, where I was very pleased with the results.
When I went to Newcomb, I was not allowed to film. In Runk they welcomed me taking pictures and filming the products. One of the chefs even jumped in a picture of some of the food for me. Before coming there I had heard that Runk had an “Organic Salad Bar”. My hopes were not let down- there salad bar claimed to be completely organic (including all of the salad dressings). Everything in the salad bar looked extremely fresh (and tasted delicious). The individuals who work at Runk maintain the salad bar very well, and I certainly believe it has paid off.
I asked one of the managers about what other products are Runk were organic. She pointed at half of the stations- making me question her understanding of the word organic. She claimed for sure that the “healthy station” used all organic food (assuming we were on the same page about the meaning of organic). Regardless if it was organic or not, the food at Runk definitely outweighed that of Newcomb and O’Hill. That being said maybe there is a trend- the more organic food I dining hall has, the better its overall food becomes? But one must consider the influx of students to each of these Dining Halls. Newcomb most likely receives the most at one time, being on Central Grounds, then comes O’Hill by first year living, and finally Runk which is far away by Hereford Dorms and Gooch & Dillard Second Year Housing. Does this mean that organic (or even good tasting food) can only be presented to a small number of people. If I assert that Newcomb had the least enjoyable and least organic options, but had the greatest student inflow, where Runk had the best tasting and most organic food, with the lesser student inflow, then there must certainly be a trend.
I still have questions which will be answered in future posts this week. Yet the point of today was to continue my normal schedule but to make minor adjustments. Although Newcomb is more convenient, I ventured to O’Hill and then Runk for dinner (which is very far out of the way). It just goes to show that if you want organic, you certainly have to make sacrifices and to go the extra yard to get it. So far, even with all three dining halls- it is still impossible to be nutritionally set and organic at the University of Virginia if you rely on a meal plan. Tomorrow I will concentrate on other options here at the University and what organic products one can by. There are numerous cafes and coffee shops which offer food products around campus, and some of which must offer organic products. That is for tomorrow and we will see if this concept of becoming “completely organic” becomes any easier.