As part of this year’s Earth Month, Pomona College Dining Services has begun serving only seasonal, local, and/or organic hand-picked fruit. The dining halls began the transition toward sustainable fruit at the beginning of the year, and April 1 marked the completion of that effort.
“We are committed to buy[ing] local and/or organic,” said Sustainability and Purchasing Coordinator Samantha Meyer PO ’10. “I also prefer to offer local, but a lot of the time we do have to offer bananas, and year-round there aren’t local bananas.”
Buying UDSA-certified organic fruit has sustainable and health benefits for consumers because organic farmers do not use harmful pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or sewage sludge.
“Having more organic foods is definitely something that is beneficial to students and their health,” said ASPC Environmental Affairs Commissioner Nate Wilairat PO '11. “And I think a lot of students may not know that.”
Purchasing organic also benefits the small Southern California farmer, Meyer explained.
“Buying local or organic does have a big impact on farmers trying to do the right thing,” she said. “It takes money from agribusiness and puts it with the people really working with the land and trying to do something positive.”
Wilairat also mentioned the negative effects that non-organic, large-scale farming operations can have on the environment, particularly due to soil depletion.
“Fertile soil has a lot of organic matter in it,” he said. “Most conventional forms of agriculture don’t really care about what the soil is like, because they can just dump lots of synthetic fertilizers on top of the soil and the plants get the nutrients they need, but the soil gets destroyed.”
Organic farms, on the other hand, tend to be smaller, more sustainable enterprises that take better care of the land.
However, according to Meyer, one downside to buying organic is that organic fruit comes with a higher price tag than non-organic.
“A lot of the seasonal price was comparable to what we were paying before,” she said. “But some of it, especially the organic food, is more expensive.”
Meyer insisted, however, that the funds used to pay for the new fruit will not be taken from other aspects of dining services.
“We decide which programs to pursue and which ones to not,” Meyer said. “We are not cutting from one area to support that program. It was something Pomona wanted to do, so they decided to fund this program.”