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.