Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Bryn Mawr College’s Local Organic Food Consumption

Bryn Mawr College’s Local Organic Food Consumption

Food is not just a mere source of energy production in our body. Food provides us solace, comfort and pleasure. We, as international students from East Asian countries, were really worried about adapting ourselves into a new whole environment Bryn Mawr, a small college in North America. We were worried about cultural differences, academic rigorousness, homesickness and many other fears that were deep inside us but just could not simply name. But it was food that connected us to our new environment, and it was food that stood up as our comfort zones. However, we do not just want to stand aside and enjoy the pleasure the food is giving to us. We want to be aware what food we are actually consuming and take an active role to expand our contact zones as Bryn Mawr College students and as consumers of local food provided in the dining halls.

Dining Hall is one of the very few places around the campus where there is a direct connection between the campus community and the local community. Consuming food properly, especially in a college dining hall, is a very important issue since the way food is “purchased, delivered, prepared, and disposed can reduce the impact on the environment.” (Bryn Mawr College News Blog, Web).

I, Abigail, was inspired with consuming and serving local food in dining hall, especially after having a dinner on the “100 Mile Meal”day, when the menu was solely based on the food produced within 100 miles of campus. Not to mention the taste of the food, but it was the sources of the food that gave me a genuine thrill. And I came to question if consuming local food helps not only local farmers economically but also helps Bryn Mawr students to get healthy and fresh food, why not provide local food every day? Is consuming local food every day puts too much economic burden on the dining hall’s budget? Would it be possible to have more events related with local food consumption like “100 Mile Meal”? What are some of the local food that are provided in daily basis and how often does the dining hall use local food?

Expanding on these questions, I would like to know some of the farms or the origins of the local food, and how it is delivered to the dining hall. Also I would like to know specifically how the symbiotic relationship between Bryn Mawr dining hall and local farms can bring positive effects to both of the communities, or negative perspectives or worries about consuming local food, if there are any.

Since people nowadays do really care about what they eat and where the food came from, I thought it would be great for students in the campus to actually run a farm like the one in Haverford College. So for the next six weeks, I would like to investigate if it would  be possible to implement such program and what effects it would bring to the campus.

I, Yuri, am interested in especially “organic food” in Bryn Mawr. Since I spent my fall break at an organic farm, I became aware of the process how the foods come to us. How are they grown and how are they processed? Is what we eat every day at the dining hall grown in a good way? The vegetables and fruit might have been showered with pesticides even though we eat them intending to improve our health. Also, it is said that factory farms raise many animals in a small space without sunlight and those animals are often in bad condition. They treat their livestock just as the products for business. Most people blame on greedy factory farms when they hear the fact, however they cannot prove that they are not contributing to this system not knowing where the food they eat come from.

Moreover, the people working at the organic farm said that the government subsidizes on factory farms for mass production. As we discussed in the class, it is true that low income people need cheap food so that they can afford it, but I reckon there must be a solution to stop factory farming since there are too much food than we need in the market.

Therefore, I would like to research where the food at Bryn Mawr College comes from, and also the economic situation of farms in US.

So the following is our six weeks proposal:

[Week 1] Interview Bernie Chung-Templeton, the manager of the bi-co dining hall

We thought it would be a great start to know how much our dining halls are using local food or organic food. We would like to know where the each food used in the dining hall comes from. We sent her an email and got a reply back on Thursday that she is willing to take her time to talk to us next Wednesday 4pm. We would be mostly asking some of the questions as follows:

  1. Why is there only one “100 Mile Meal” per semester, and would it be possible to have such events more? (If yes, how are they planning to do so in future; if no, why not?)

  2. How much does Bryn Mawr consume food locally / organic food?

  3. What are some of the local food / organic food in the dining hall today? If not, where they come from?

  4. In your perspective, what kind of impacts do you think are there if dining hall consumes more local organic food? (Pros and cons?)

  5. As a bi-co dining hall manager, how much do you think Haverfarm affects its community and do you think Bryn Mawr farm sounds feasible?

We would be working on more interview questions next Tuesday, before we get to meet her.


[Week 2] Visit the animal  farms where Bryn Mawr dining hall usually get meats in order to “actually see” what is going on there. We would ask Barnie where the farms are.


[Week 3] Interview BMC Sustainable Food Club

(Blog: ) (Online Petition: ) (Facebook Page: )

BMC Sustainable Food Club has actually been working on maximizing “real food” in the college dining halls. They define “real food” as “coming from local/ community based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane sources.” ( Web) So to achieve their goals, they held campaigns and petitions both online and offline. We thought it would be a good idea how the club members have tried to be active members of society, actually taking actions to bring change into community.

  1. What motivated you to start BMC Real Food Challenge?

  2. How much do you think improvement has been made so far?

  3. Are you willing to carry on the campaigns and petitions?

  4. Do you have any advice to Bryn Mawr students for what actions they should take or what kinds of consciousness they need to have in dealing with such issue?

[Week 4] Interview Honey Brook Organic Farm ( )

1, Economic impacts of local food consumption. (How much profits do they get if there are more local customers than foreign customers?)


[Week 5]Survey the opinions of Bryn Mawr students about the dining hall

  1. How do you feel about the food at the Bryn Mawr?

  2. Do you think the food worth the money you paid for the dining service? If not, how do they improve?

  3. Do you want more organic food there?

  4. If they increase the amount of organic food as return of reducing service such as providing paper take out box, do you agree with this idea?


[Week 6] Interview the professor of Haverfarm, who runs a farm with students taking her class

Haverford has a small farm in which the students at the farming class grow vegetables. The food grown there are used in Haverford Dining Hall.

  1. Why did you start this course? What motivated you to start Haverfarm?

  2. How much of food do you grow? How much does it contribute to Haverford Dining Hall?

  3. What is your objective? How do you want to expand Haverfarm?


Works Cited

"BMC Real Food Challenge." BMC Real Food Challenge. Bryn Mawr Sustainable Food Committee, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

"Students Eat Fresh, Eat Local at Special “100-Mile Meal” : News." Students Eat Fresh, Eat Local at Special “100-Mile Meal” : News. Bryn Mawr College, n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.


Anne Dalke's picture

yhamashima, haabibi—
this is SO impressive! I’m a little worried that your project is more ambitious than you will be able to fulfill, but I’m really liking the way you’ve broken down your tasks, and @ the end of each week upcoming (when you’ve finished one of them), you can re-visit your plan for the week following. What I’m liking especially is the way you begin w/ interviews—finding out what is already happening by talking with folks who have been working in this arena for a while now—and then turning your attention to the potential for activism, arising from what you’ve learned. I can’t wait to see what emerges!

jccohen's picture

yhamashima and haabibi,

I join in Anne Dalke's enthusiasm for your project and the thoughtful way you've laid it out!  Note that people that you talk with in the early phases may also have suggestions for who else you should talk with, so be open to following up in this way (and perhaps to cutting back in some other areas).  Also, I'm excited about your plan to actually go visit a relevant farm - and curious how this will play out.  Looking forward to all you will learn and teach us!