Real Food BC Adapts and Expands Compost and Farm Initiatives in Light of COVID-19

By Carmen Hamm, ’21

Carmen Hamm ’21 is the Composting Manager for Real Food and was recently asked to write an article for the Environmental Eagle, an environmental justice and sustainability newsletter distributed by Ecopledge, another leading sustainability club on campus.

Like many clubs on campus this year, Real Food is learning how to adapt to a unique semester in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, Real Food hosts cooking classes, speaker series, and hosts homemade student dinners. This year, however, the club has needed to invent new ways to explore its three main focus areas of dining policy, composting, and gardening due to social distancing guidelines.

Real Food shares a close partnership with BC Dining, which has allowed for the organizations to collaborate on programming to help students who are looking for alternatives to the traditional dining hall. Both groups are promoting the community supported agriculture (CSA) program, as students are choosing to prepare food in their dorms now more than ever before. The CSA program allows students to invest in local farming and receive fresh, seasonal produce in return.

Students who do not want to commit to the farmshare can instead choose to attend the weekly farmer’s market outside of Corcoran Commons to purchase fresh produce with either their meal plan dollars or via regular payment options. Both groups are also hoping to host virtual cooking classes with recipes that incorporate ingredients from the market. Real Food hosted our first class last week.

Real Food also sponsors a composting initiative, now in its second year, which allows students to close the food loop from the comfort of their own dorm. Participating rooms receive a Real Food sponsored kitchen bin to collect their food waste. Once full, students can empty their bin into one of three communal collection bins centrally located behind Rubenstein Hall, Stayer Hall, and the 2000 Reservoir Apartments.

This year, 38 dorm rooms are participating, with 12 of those rooms being from the Sustainability Living & Learning Community located in 2K. Each participating room attended a virtual compost training session, learning about the benefits, dos and don’ts, and logistics of composting. All collected compost is then outsourced to Save That Stuff, a recycling and waste services company located in Waltham, MA, where it is used for anaerobic digestion.

Additionally, Real Food is continuing its organic garden, located across Beacon Street from McElroy Dining Hall. Real Food has hosted four socially-distanced planting days where members planted a variety of fall vegetable staples, such as beets and carrots. Since the club cannot host large events with meals this semester, the garden harvest is open to all Real Food members for individual use.

Despite having to rethink many dimensions of the club, Real Food has been able to adapt and expand many programs, such as our composting initiative and dedication to the development of our garden. We are grateful for our members and the broader BC community for growing with us.

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