Larkin Schmiedl's Blog

Journalist at work

Archive for March 2012

An unknown source of local food on campus?

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Local food, sustainability and fair trade have come to mainstream consciousness over the past few years, and as a result some businesses are shifting their policies.  Some others are trying to appear to be doing so.

I’ve been noticing these signs in the Terrace cafeteria at TRU over the past few weeks.

The posters are a part of Aramark’s “Green Thread” campaign, described by the company as part of its sustainable food initiative.

Aramark provides the food on a great number of different university campuses across North America, as well as in colleges, high schools, remote camps, businesses and more.

I wonder what action Aramark, the food company that runs almost all the food on campus at TRU, has taken on its stated commitments toward sustainability and local, organic and fair trade food?

In 2010 Aramark published a press release announcing it had received an award as one of Canada’s greenest employers.

It seems there is lots to learn, and I’d like to know more.

I wonder what percentage of Aramark's food is sourced within Canada? Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

"Whenever possible" depends partly on availability, and partly on the level of a company's priority toward sourcing local food. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

How much local food is served in this cafeteria, and what is meant by 'sustainable'? Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

The Terrace, one of the main cafeterias on TRU's campus. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

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Written by larkinschmiedl

March 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm

The skeleton and the meat of local sustainability

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The direction of my story is coming together in its final form now, and I’m really excited about it.

The final project, due in nine days, is going to be looking at local sustainable food sources in Kamloops.  I’m going to be defining what sustainable means (or could mean), and looking at what policy is in place in the city around the issue and how it’s being implemented and used. I’m also going to be speaking to different ‘consumers’–likely one who places high value on eating local food and does so as much as possible, and then one other ‘average’ consumer.

With all of this, I hope to paint a picture of the sustainable food situation in Kamloops–what’s happening now, what the willpower for change may or may not be, and what possible future directions or avenues might be if the goal were sustainability.

Food production is, after all, the biggest use we make of our environment.  The way we produce food for ourselves is key to environmental health.

Over the next week I’ll be speaking with as many grocery stores and restaurants as I can to see what they have, and speaking with city councillors and analyzing food policy in the city.  I’ll also be seeking an acceptable definition of the concept of ‘sustainability’ when it comes to food, and looking at the Canada food pyramid where it all, in some form, is based, at least in theory.

Stay tuned for more, and please send on any suggestions, comments, questions or feedback.

Thanks for reading.

Written by larkinschmiedl

March 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Ethical food and the world of business: complications, compromises, priorities and dreams

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Christina Grono created, owns and manages The Art We Are, a local Kamloops café, restaurant and art gallery.

She is also my former boss.

As the owner of a restaurant who faces commercial pressures while striving to serve food that’s as local, organic and ethical as possible and also remaining affordable, I talked with her about the food her restaurant uses, what her personal ethics and goals are for the business, and what kinds of things come into question.

Here’s what she had to say:

Pt. 1

Pt. 2

Meat on campus: a microcosm

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Local meat without added hormones or antibiotics is what the people want to buy, but it’s not always what’s cost-effective.

Jason Cochran is a faculty member in the Retail Meat Processing program at Thompson Rivers University (TRU).  He handles most of the meat ordering for the program, as well as for the neighbouring Culinary Arts program.

The program runs the Meat Store, which is open every Thursday on campus to sell the cuts of meat the students have made.

The customers want local meat, Cochran said, and so that’s what’s in the store, but, “the local beef actually costs me more than the feedlot beef.”  It comes from a ranch just north of Barriere.

The beef the culinary arts program uses on the other hand almost all comes as boxed beef, and it’s from a slaughterhouse in Alberta.

It’s feedlot beef, Cochran told me, and there’s a 99 per cent certainty the animal has been fed hormones and antibiotics throughout its life.

When you buy boxed beef, he said, it could be from three or four animals from anywhere in Alberta or even B.C. mixed up together.  The majority of B.C. beef, he told me, is shipped to Alberta to be slaughtered.

There are two local provincially-inspected slaughterhouses according to Cochran however.  One is called Kam Lake View Meats, and is located in Kamloops.  The other is Rainer Meats and is situated north of Barriere.

Cochran said local beef can be difficult to source because he needs a consistent source of meat.  He also listed the need to trust the supplier and to have a relationship with them as concerns.

The majority of the beef comes into the meat cutting program in the fall he said.

In a typical program year, Cochran will order 15 to 16 cows, which will cost approximately $40,000 altogether.  This would make each cow approximately $2,500.

The two other main types of meat in the Meat Store are chicken and pork.  Each come from a different slaughterhouse in the Lower Mainland.

The chicken is entirely hormone and antibiotic-free, whereas the pork gets one treatment of antibiotics in its lifetime.

Besides operating the Meat Store, the retail meat processing program also sells sides of beef, bulk chicken, does customer orders, and processes meat for both hunters and some local farmers.

The Art We Are making news

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Christina Grono, owner of The Art We Are, was interviewed by CBC's Rebecca Zandbergen on Radio West live Mar. 2 at The Art We Are. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

The Art We Are is a colourful local coffee shop, restaurant and art gallery that strives to be a community hub for music, art, relaxing and making connections.

Owner Christina Grono was interviewed on site this past Friday Mar. 2, by CBC’s Rebecca Zandbergen of Radio West.

Grono described some of her philosophy behind the café on air.  “Everyone is welcome.  I just felt that if people could express themselves in a safe place, it spreads creativity and helps growth and helps community.”

“In my travels and going to other cities I felt like we needed a place where people could create community, where they could come at all hours and be able to just feel like they could come and read their book, and be here for eight hours if they wanted to be.”

The Art We Are is quite a unique business in Kamloops, both in terms of how it looks, and how it actually feels.

As part of my project on this food blog I’ll be interviewing Grono this Wednesday.  I’ll be looking at her philosophy behind her business, and how it coincides with the type of food The Art We Are uses.

I’ll be talking with her about some of the ethical issues that arise for her as someone who is both a conscientious consumer while also being constrained by the limits of running a business.

Stay tuned for more information on the interview coming up.

Christina Grono of The Art We Are interviewed by Rebecca Zandbergen of CBC's Radio West. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

Written by larkinschmiedl

March 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

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