Where Does Our Food Come From?
Sourcing food for a large, complex and diverse population is a multifaceted and intricate process. Everything is connected. While we prefer to purchase all of our food from local organic sources, it is neither practical nor possible. In September 2011, we entered into a food sourcing relationship with a local vendor, the Ben E. Keith Company (BEK). The vast majority of our food comes to UNT via the BEK warehouse in Fort Worth, TX. In a sense, all of our food is local.
But where does the food originate from before it gets to the BEK warehouse? We purchase our food based on a spectrum of desirability. The continuum runs the gamut from locally organic to international conventional. We purchase the product that best suits the overall needs of UNT, bearing in mind quality, availability and selling price.
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Increase of Imports
In the United States, the amount of imported food continues to increase as Americans consume more products that are either not locally available or not grown fast enough to meet demand. The United States imports a wide variety of foods, including fish and shellfish, fruits, nuts, vegetables and red meat. Because of cheaper labor costs overseas, it is sometimes less expensive to buy an imported apple than one grown here at home.
Some of our most popular food items (bananas, coffee, tea, cocoa) simply cannot be grown in the continental United States.
Many times of the year, fresh fruits must be imported from Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile and Peru. At certain times of the year, fresh vegetables must come to us from Mexico and Peru. Some fish and shellfish are harvested by American companies operating out of China. Nearly all of our red meat and poultry comes from Texas and our border states, though much of the United States imports red meat from South America.
We are able to substantially limit our imported food volume by gearing our menus to predominately feature fresh seasonal food. This is a more European model of food production. It requires common sense, discipline and creativity. When properly practiced, eating in season provides fresher, more nutritious, more wholesome and less expensive food.
Nearly 80% of our food is Regional Conventional. In other words, it is produced using traditional farming methods and comes to us from Texas and our border states plus California and Florida. Many of our fresh herbs and some fresh produce is Local Organic. We add more local organic suppliers each year as the Denton and greater Texas market evolves.
Food sourcing in the future will continue to be a complex undertaking for large, diverse campus populations. It is much better to follow a flexible game plan built on a solid foundation of improvement and nutritional excellence rather than rigidly adhere to one-size-fits-all dogma.