For many new students at UVM, the golden goodness we get to spread on our pancakes in the dining halls is a no brainer. In the land of maple syrup, to be serving up the fake stuff would count as blasphemy right?
Well it turns out the 100% pure VT maple syrup standard across campus is actually new this year. Previously, most locations used imitation corn syrup concoctions, as dining services was unable to find a local supplier that could offer a price low enough to avoid raising meal plan costs. However, last fall a class called Barriers to Local Food took on the noble task of conducting a feasibility study, comparing various potential suppliers.
This is how UVM’s own Proctor Maple Research Center (PRMC) got involved. They were excited by the idea of getting their product into student dining halls, as students already play a critical role in the production of their syrup. PMRC is also a research based nonprofit so they can offer their product at more affordable price to UVM Dining. Over the course of the school year, PMRC will supply over 1,000 gallons of organic and local liquid gold to UVM.
It is important to recognize what the consequences of a switch like this are. Caylin McKee, UVM Dining Sustainability Manager reports that UVM Dining is spending $16,000 more per year than when they were sourcing predominantly imitation syrup. So why do they bother? Part of Sodexo’s Vermont First pledge (announced last fall) is to source products from our state that Vermont is already producing in high volume, like maple and dairy. UVM Dining is also trying to prioritize products with preexisting ties to UVM. For example, they already purchase some produce from Catamount Farm and the adjoining UVM Horticulture Farm. This way, students can be involved from planting the seed to cleaning the plate.
Ultimately, the switch to pure maple syrup was put into motion by student research and advocacy, and serves as an important reminder that students have an active role to play in shaping the campus food system. So what’s next?
By Annalena Barrett, senior in the Environmental Studies Program at UVM. Originally published in the Vermont Cynic 11/4/2015.