At times, we’re asked, “Where does your food come from?” We’re always thrilled to answer this question, and we wish it were asked more often. At SAGE, we think it’s important for students to know where their food comes from—both to recognize the time, skill, and resources necessary to produce the food they eat, and to understand the implications of their consumption for soil and water quality, animal welfare, local economies, and global climate change. Food is one of the many lenses through which our students can understand their place in the world, and we believe the best way to encourage sustainable behavior is to model it ourselves.
SAGE encourages each of our venues to purchase as much product as possible from local, sustainable providers, including using food grown in our schools’ own farms and gardens. For the 2016-2017 school year, over 37% of the products SAGE purchased were manufactured, produced, or grown within a 150-mile radius of each school, which is above average within the industry. That number rises to 86% if we include products purchased from local distributors, the grocery houses from which SAGE purchases the majority of its products.
We don’t set a single numeric target because each venue’s environment is so different. Some have large farms and orchards that supply our kitchens. Others must bring in product from warmer regions during most of the school year. Our Managers do their best given their specific circumstances, including supporting on-campus gardens to maximize their local product—in fact, over 200 SAGE schools have gardens.
To support local purchasing efforts, SAGE’s Purchasing Department collaborates with our Chefs at each school to identify potential partners and suppliers. To make sure that the products we buy are both safe and local, SAGE Purchasing Representatives visit each local purveyor to ensure that each manufacturer, farmer, or supplier is using Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices, or is Third-Party Certified.
We emphasize the importance of sustainable sourcing through on-site signage highlighting organic items, sustainability programs, local farmers whose food is featured, and produce grown both on campus and within 150 miles of campus. Our catering menus highlight local ingredients and purveyors, as do our daily line signs.
We’re very proud of the leadership role we’ve played in promoting local and sustainable sourcing within our schools and beyond—and we’re planning to do even more in the future.