Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Today’s goal was to explore other on-grounds options for eating organic, in particular, places where plus dollars would be accepted.

Finally, I have found hope that eating organic may just be possible at the University of Virginia. It is called the Fine Arts Café, located at the Architecture school, and it seems to be the only glittering symbol of eating organic at UVA. But I must say, my day did not begin as optimistic.

My first destination was the Wilsdorf Café, located in the Engineering School vicinity. The café is very new, having been constructed only two or three years ago. It has a sleek modern design and would give anyone the impression of modernity (which would seem to encompass organic foods, part of the Green Movement). I didn’t expect everything to be organic- I knew a lot of their products are made elsewhere and just brought in the café. They also have a lot of processed food items I knew right away couldn’t be organic, but I assumed they would have to have something organic. When I asked the manager what organic products they had, she responded that they had nothing. “Nothing?” I asked. “None of the fruits or sandwiches have any organic components to them?” She nodded a “no” back to me. She did say that they used to carry “organic” bananas- whatever that meant. I didn’t know bananas were organic to central Virginia. The one thing she did say is their coffee is “free trade”, which although it isn’t organic, it is still a beneficial aspect of the product. But as a whole, Wilsdorf let me down.
It was the same story with the coffee shop in Clark. Everything they sold came from elsewhere (and many were the same products as in Wilsdorf). Once again, no organic products. I was let down by these two cafes, assuming at such a prestigious and modern university, surrounded by farms within a thirty mile radius, there had to be some organic/local food here at UVA.
I walked into the Pavilion in Newcomb, to see if there were any organic items available. Like a normal college student, I was interested in not spending money unless I had to, and nothing in there seemed to be organic. Pizza Hut was under no way organic, and neither was Chick-Fil-A. I could only assume the Sushi restaurant did not have any organic options. Yet Freshens was a possible candidate for being organic, and so was the sandwich bar, although my gut feeling says they aren’t organic as well. Regardless, those are two questions I need to determine in the coming days.

I left the Pavilion feeling pretty disheartened about my options. The main reason I believe there is nothing organic at the Pavilion is because they haven’t advertised it. When a restaurant or company uses an organic product- the price increases and the company advertises that it’s organic to get people to accept the price. Yet, I cannot make such straightforward assumptions about the food vendors at the Pavilion until I know for sure.

I took the bus back to my apartment, but then remembered there is a café at the Architecture School- I had never been to it but I had heard good things. As I walked in, I saw the holy grail of 'organicness' at UVA. “Grass-Fed Beef” – “No Pesticides” – “No added preservatives” – “All Organic”. Finally, there was some place of understanding for all those students trying eat organic at such a "modern" university. I took a look at the menu and was pleasantly surprised- there seemed to be a number of good tasting items. I saw a Black Bean Quesadilla which looked pretty appealing. Although the prices were higher here, the Quesadilla was only about $5, making not that big of a dent on my wallet (or Plus Dollars). I asked the lady working the register, “So everything here is organic?” She responded, “Yep, pretty much anything you can order.” Although there was packaged food- in regards to the menu the chefs cook for you, it’s a completly organic selection.

I received my Quesadilla and actually really enjoyed it. Regardless of my objective in this project, it was a great choice coming to this café (which is also very close to my apartment so it made it convenient). It took the hard work of a former UVA student to transform this café into an organic lover’s dream. Whether or not I continue an organic diet after this project, I will certainly return to that café very often.
Tomorrow, I will venture beyond on grounds dining facilities. My main focus is the Corner: What organic options are there? Does Little John have any organic ingredients- what about Qdoba? There has to be something organic on the Corner. So far, my conclusion of eating organic solely on ground dining facilities: Good Luck- it will be difficult but with restaurants like the Fine Arts Cafe, it is certainly possible. If you plan on eating at Newcomb or O'Hill everyday on a completly organic diet, then I will say it is impossible. Once one explores their options, more possibilities always arise.

- Michael

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