Local foods on the Vanderbilt campus
[Originally published by the Vanderbilt Hustler and InsideVandy]
If you’ve ever been curious about where some of the food on campus comes from, look no farther than several miles down the road. Three of the largest suppliers of local food at Vanderbilt come from family farms fewer than 50 miles away. These suppliers include Delvin Family Farms, supplying certified organic produce that chefs use in their dishes, Hatcher Family Dairy, distributing milk to certain dining establishments, and Westwind Farms, providing whole chickens, eggs and various cuts of pork.
According to Suzanne Herron, sustainability coordinator, Vanderbilt Campus Dining is interested in working with local farmers, to the benefit of the Vanderbilt community.
“It is a pleasure and an honor to be able to serve the most fresh food, most nutritious food, coming from right down the road. (The farmers) are the nicest people,” Herron said.
Campus Dining first became interested in local farmers in 2007, when Cindy Delvin, of Delvin Family Farms, came to speak on campus.
“(The effort) came from the director (of Dining) being very passionate. His passion for great tasting, fresh, quality food keeps us in line with what we need to be doing, which is supporting local farmers,” Herron said.
Encouraged to use as much local food as possible in their dishes, the chefs are forced to be creative and proactive in planning their menus, as local supplies depend on seasonality and availability with Vanderbilt’s large size making it impossible for local farmers to meet all campus needs. Most of the produce that comes from Delvin Family Farms is only available in the summer, though there are certain squashes that chefs can use in the fall.
Many dishes with local food appear in Chef James Bistro and the Chef’s Table at The Commons Center, while Rand Dining Center carries certain local sauces and The Pub makes its milkshakes with Hatcher Dairy milk. Locally produced foods like Olive and Sinclair chocolates, Twin Forks granola and Lisa’s kettle corn can be found in the campus Munchie Marts. During the holiday season, Last Drop Coffee Shop and Common Grounds are also offering a shot of eggnog from Hatcher Dairy as a special side.
Altogether Campus Dining has close to 100 local suppliers, defined as suppliers within a 250-mile radius of the school. With such a broad definition, some suppliers considered local come from across state lines in Kentucky.
“We try to get supplies from as close in as possible, in Middle Tennessee,” Herron said. “We want to support our neighbors.”