Bon Appétit pledges commitment to local food, Appleton community

Bridget Donnelly

The Appleton community’s
interest in Bon Appétit’s “farm to
fork” initiative at Lawrence peaked
after an article about the company’s
efforts to support the community
by purchasing ingredients
from local producers ran in The
Appleton Post Crescent Feb. 14.
Julie Severance, Bon Appétit’s
general manager, described the
“farm to fork” program as Bon
Appétit’s attempt to bring in local
foods and ingredients.
While Bon Appétit defines the
term “local” as anywhere in the
upper Midwest, it tries to contain
its search for produce to a 150-
mile radius, especially focusing on
the immediate Fox Cities area.
“When Alan [Shook, the
executive chef of Bon Appétit at
Lawrence] and I started out in the
summer, our first stop was to the
downtown Farmer’s Market,” said
Severance.
Some connections were easy
to make, such as the relationship
that has continued with Red Barn
Family Farms, Lawrence’s longtime
milk supplier.
However, Bon Appétit has
faced a number of challenges,
especially as many of their local
food suppliers simply do not produce
enough food to feed a school
the size of Lawrence.
Currently, according to
Severance, Bon Appétit has three
major goals. The company wants
to increase the percentage of
locally produced food served at
the Warch Campus Center each
month, to raise awareness by labeling
all local ingredients and to support
the values promoted by such
events as the “Eat Local Challenge”
and the “Low-Carbon Diet Day,”
sponsored by Lawrence organizations.
Severance has noticed a vast
community response to the article
in The Post-Crescent. She has
already been contacted by some
local farmers wishing to aid Bon
Appétit in progress toward a truly
sustainable dining program.
Student organizations, especially
the students and faculty
running the Sustainable Lawrence
University Gardens, have played
a crucial role in introducing Bon
Appétit to many of the available
local options.
Sophomore Stacey Day
described SLUG’s efforts to introduce
Bon Appétit to local farms,
farms that Lawrence has worked
with in past years.
Day also described SLUG’s
recent undertakings, and she
hopes will provide additional contacts
and support for the farm to
fork program.
Day explained, “SLUG presented
at the Wisconsin Local Food
Summit in Eau Claire … in January
and networked with farmers there.
[SLUG members also] attended
the MOSES [Midwest Organic and
Sustainable Education Service]
organic farming conference in
La Crosse this past weekend, so
we hope to collaborate with Bon
Appétit and share our new findings,
connections and resources
with them soon.”
Severance mentioned that finding
the food providers and serving
local food is only one aspect of
Bon Appétit’s efforts to extend
into the community.
“It comes full circle,” said
Severance. “It is important for Bon
Appétit to become a part of the
Lawrence community, just as it is
important for Lawrence to be part
of the Appleton community.”
Severance said she has noticed
an increased flow of Appleton residents
in both Andrew Commons
and Kaplan’s Grill since the
February article, adding to the
number of local people who have
been eating at the Warch Campus
Center since its grand opening.
Barbara Stack, associate vice
president of major and planned
giving, has been integral in extending
interest in the new campus
center and Bon Appétit throughout
the community. She works to
bring in groups – including the
Fox Valley Estate Planning Council
and the American Cancer Society’s
Shopping for Scholarships Steering
Committee, which will hold an
event here this coming June – to
meet at the Warch Center.
“The reaction after they have
seen and experienced what Bon
Appétit has to offer is undoubtedly
always ‘Wow. Can the public
eat here anytime?'” said Stack.
She added that she always
encourages community members
to come eat at the campus center,
whether it is for an informal lunch
with colleagues or a formal group
meeting planned in advance.
Larry Donatelle, vice president
of medical affairs at St. Elizabeth
Hospital in Appleton, has been
quite impressed with the food
options available this year.
He said, “As a physician it is
truly a pleasure to see that Bon
Appétit is offering foods that allow
for healthy choices that are presented
in such an appealing fashion.
These choices are fostering
healthy eating habits in our college
students as they transition to more
independent living in the future.”
Another community member,
Ronald J. Altenburg, has taken advantage of Bon Appétit and
the Warch Center’s openness
to members of the larger community.
“I was intrigued,”
Altenburg recalled, “so I
brought a few of my colleagues
over for an informal lunch
meeting. We were impressed
by the variety of food choices
that recognize different tastes
and preferences and show a
respect for sourcing locally
where possible. I have been
back for a number of lunches
and events at the Warch
Campus Center.”
Though the campus center
itself has drawn a number of
visitors, Stack recognizes that
“Bon Appétit has been a key
factor in helping community
members feel welcome and
wanted on campus. We’re very
fortunate to be able to offer
this level of hospitality to our
friends and neighbors,” she
said.
Bon Appétit management
has taken advantage
of the new dining location
for students in the efforts of
fostering lasting relationships
with the Lawrence community
and, by extension, the
Appleton community.
Bon Appétit has received
some criticism for not having
yet reached some goals – in
particular, locally produced
food only accounts for five
percent of Bon Appétit’s current
available selection.
In response, Severance
said, “We have to remember
we’re only about seven months
into this.”
Severance reaffirmed that
Bon Appétit is already making
relationships with the immediate
community, which will
hopefully allow Lawrence to
reach its goals and establish a
truly local, sustainable dining
experience.

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