Winter Holiday Market, Winter Wonderland Festival put sustainability program in spotlight
By Daria Sokolova
In an effort to showcase Roosevelt University’s sustainability program, local farmers provided chicken sausage, fresh fresh fruit to dip in a chocolate fountain and other produce in the Congress Lounge on Dec. 5 in what was called the Winter Holiday Market and Winter Wonderland Festival.
A joint event between Dining Services, Center for Student Involvement, Residence Life, Project Prime and SPEED Chicago, the market and festival inspired the Roosevelt community to feel the spirit of the season and introduced them to the local farmers whose produce was represented.
“One of the big emphases we are trying to place is the university’s farm-to-fork relationships,” said Bill Reich, director of Food Services, Inc. affiliated with Roosevelt University. “A lot of the food we serve here for catering and in the cafeteria comes from local farms within 250 miles of Chicago, and all of the items that you see in [Congress Lounge] represent a farm that is within 250 miles.”
A sustainability initiative presented local products such as peanut butter, cheese, honey, maple syrup and freshly roasted coffee. Those who wanted to purchase items could do so at farmers’ prices, according to Reich.
“There are a couple of things that make it unique,” he said. “It’s about showcasing the sustainability initiatives in the farm-to-fork relationships the university has. You don’t see that at a lot of universities around. And certainly not in partnership with local farms and all the different university departments.”
As students could enjoy organic chicken sausage and baked cheese prepared by a chef on-the-spot, some other giveaways included apple cider, cookies, fresh fruit and marshmallows students could dip in a chocolate fountain.
Reich said those who wanted to replicate the showcased products could take special recipe cards.
The university established a special relationship with local farms after the opening of the Wabash Building in May 2012 according to Reich.
Since then, a Chicago-based FarmLogix limited liability company — which connects local farms with schools, hotels and corporate companies via modern technologies and eliminates economical barriers — serves as a liaison between the school and the farmers who supply food to the university’s cafeteria.
Andy Breiter, farm logistics manager at FarmLogix LLC, said the event featured 11 farmers from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.
“We are able to spend more time and go out to these farms, meet the farmers, make sure their growing process is correct and done well and actually get to know the farmers,” Breiter said. “We take care of logistics so farmers can concentrate on farming, as opposed to shipping and receiving. We are a bridge when it comes to building a relationship with the farmer.”
Breiter added FarmLogix LLC puts a big focus on the production’s quality, which makes it different from corporate grocery stores.
“[The farmers] won’t be putting in genetically modified materials for their cows or putting in too many chemicals to make their chocolate,” Breiter said.
According to Reich, 20 percent of the food in the cafeteria comes from local farmers — a number the school constantly tries to increase.
“We really want people to see that you can eat well without buying corporatized food or food that comes from factory farms,” Reich said. “We want to show people we are living the sustainability model. It’s values of the university that we really enjoy showcasing”
Angelique Connor who represented Testa Produce Inc., another company that works closely with the university to supply the fresh organic produce to the cafeteria tables, said the partnership with the university is different from all other organizations.
“We have much more of a personal connection, more of a personal relationship,” Connor explained. “I see Bill [Reich] at least twice a week. … And as far as making sure that he has the superior service his students want.”
Another main attraction of the event were the decorative gingerbread houses made by 10 different student departments at the university.
Reich said students and faculty cast 143 votes for their favorite house.
After Residence Life was selected as the winner, the houses were auctioned off to help the Illinois Victim Relief Fund. In addition to that, more than $100 was collected for charity, Reich said.
In the Fainman Lounge, SPEED Chicago hosted activities where students could take photos with Santa Claus, make scarves for the homeless and read poems.
“Our goals are just to try to get students more involved,” said SPEED member Arielle Antolin. “I feel like people are walking by and they see what’s going on. It makes us feel good that at least people feel like they are helping others out. Christmas is not about just us. It’s about everyone else.”
Although not directly represented at Winter Holiday Market and Winter Wonderland Festival, Residence Life, CSI and Project Prime actively participated in preparation and helping to create awareness.
Reich said the proceeds will go to offset the cost of putting on the event.
“This is definitely not for us to make money,” Reich said. “It’s about showcasing those relationships, and it’s about having fun for the students, faculty and staff — the whole university community to have some fun.”
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