Monday, May 14, 2007

Vegetable rights and peas

Always nice to know that the ol' alma mater is blissfully free of organic produce.

But, where is University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in this organic movement? The school offers Burger King, Taco Bell, and a variety of other menu options, but organic food choices are absent. But this does not mean buying an organic salad in the Union will remain impossible.

“It’s been our goal for quite some time,” said Scott Hoffland, UWM’s campus restaurant operations manager.

However, the University of Wisconsin system has strict guidelines for food vendors in terms of safety and economics that make creating an organic food program difficult.

“The decision to have food at a UW event, either on or off campus, presents a number of concerns, including the safe and proper handling of the food, as well as business concerns regarding purchasing and accounting processes and whether the provider has adequate insurance in place,” said the University of Wisconsin website regarding catering policies.

Organic producers must have at least $2 million of insurance in order for institutions like UWM to purchase their food. This would protect both the producer and UWM in case of an E.coli outbreak from contaminated watermelon, for example. Because organic farms are often small operations, Hoffland said they typically cannot afford this amount of coverage. Therefore, the costs of farming and insurance combine to make organics more expensive for consumers.

An organic food product can cost up to double the amount of its conventional, or nonorganic, counterpart. If UWM initiates an organic meal program, Hoffland said, economics are a big factor. Both the school and the students must be able to afford the food items.

In addition to economic dilemmas, another obstacle to serving organic food is the supply demands UWM would pose. The volume that the school will demand may exceed what local organic farmers and vendors can provide.

“We’re like an 800-pound gorilla. If we need 50 bushels of corn by next week, we may not be able to get it,” Hoffland said.
The students are saved! The students are saved! But, you may ask, why can they have organic food in Madison but not at UW-Milwaukee?
UW-Madison offers its students and faculty members a wide range of organic menu selections. The produce items they serve, including carrots, apples, potatoes, and corn, are harvested from their own university-run farm, as well as purchased from local organic farmers.
All those in favor of clear-cutting the Downer Woods in favor of fresh tomatoes...

Yeah, that's what I thought.

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