Students Helping Local Farmers

Economics Environmental Studies Sustainability
May 14, 2015

Two environmental studies and economics double-majors have partnered with Bon Appétit dining services at Denison to make healthy foods even more available to students, faculty and staff. Staple foods are delivered to campus thanks to Emily Marguerite ’15 and Jennifer Curry ’15. The pair has created the Big Red Buyer’s Club (BRBC), which works with local farmers and producers to provide their goods directly to the campus.

The BRBC website provides pictures and descriptions of the farmers and their staple food products, such as milk, coffee, flour, beans, cheese and yogurt. “Kind of like a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, every week you’ll pick up a bundle of staple goods or produce,” said Curry, a native of Park Ridge, Ill. “And since these are all staple foods, we’re not taking away or competing with produce from the farmers’ market.”

“Our objectives are buying and supporting local products and to enhance producer-consumer relationships because a lot of people don’t know where their food comes from.”

Curry and Marguerite have combined their environmental studies knowledge with information from their economics classes, and they plan to do an economic analysis at the end of the project. “Most grocery stores around here have a 40 percent markup on their products, but the Buyers Club has only a 20 percent markup, so people save money and support the local economy,” they said.

The idea originated from Piper Fernwey, sustainability manager for Bon Appétit. The trio leveraged Bon Appétit’s commitment to local food and relationships with local farmers. The Big Red Buyers Club now partners with 12 farmers and vendors.

“I wanted to help students to eat locally. We can do that when students eat in the dining hall, but when they are seniors, many cook their own food in their apartments,” said Piper. “I wanted to capture that opportunity and help teach students to be more conscientious consumers.”

“Our objectives are buying and supporting local products and enhancing producer-consumer relationships, because a lot of people don’t know where their food comes from,” said Marguerite, who hails from Wilmette, Ill. “Farmers come in on pick-up day and customers talk to them and ask questions, building relationships. We coordinated ‘farmer’s tables’ that correlate with Buyer’s Club pickups, so Buyer’s Club participants can meet the farmer, sample that farmer’s food and see if they want to purchase it for the next pickup day.”

BRBC hosted a tasting event in the fall of 2014. Bon Appétit cooked creative dishes using local products to show prospective buyers what they can make with their purchases.

“Some of the products are less well-known, so people may not know what they are. But if they can see what you can use them for, they might be more inclined to buy them,” said Curry.

“One of the most important pieces of my job is working with students, and I try as much as possible to make my initiatives student-driven. They can try out their activist legs in a safe place with a little bit of guidance,” said Piper.

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