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Southeastern’s ARAMARK Food Service Director Martin Balisteri discusses the possibilities of increasing the food supply provided by area farmers with Reconnect members Allegra Weldon, center, and Bonnie May.
For her work with Reconnect, student Allegra Weldon received the Newman Civic Fellowship
Award, presented by Campus Compact. Presenting the award are President John L. Crain,
left, and David Burley of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and Reconnect
Weldon and members of her organization began working with the Real Food Challenge, a national movement to incorporate locally produced food into university operations. They talked with students from other universities to learn the best approaches to try to launch a “real food” campaign at Southeastern.
“When you eat something like a salad, not only will students be consuming a healthier, fresher product, but money is put back into our local economy,” said Weldon, explaining the reasoning behind the project. “Why ship strawberries in from California when they are grown in our backyard?”
The students met several times with representatives of ARAMARK, the corporation that operates Cayman Cafeteria on campus. ARAMARK Food Service Director Martin Balisteri said he encourages his vendors to obtain as much locally-grown produce as possible.
“Because of the nature of our business, we do not contract directly with farmers or food producers,” he explained. “We encourage local farmers to work with our vendors to be able to supply them with fresh produce on a regular, sustainable basis.”
The students also consulted with area farmers to inquire about their capabilities to produce food to help meet the needs of the university.
“Louisiana is a very agriculturally rich area,” says Weldon. “This is a perfect opportunity to improve both our community and our university. Students are consuming a healthier, fresher product, and money is put back into our local community.”
For her leadership in this project, Weldon received the Newman Civic Fellowship Award, presented to only 137 students at 30 institutions in the country. The fellowships are awarded by Campus Compact, an organization of more than 1,100 colleges and universities committed to the civic purposes of higher education.
Weldon was nominated for the fellowship by David Burley, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and faculty advisor to Reconnect.
“The project Allegra has been working on with her fellow students in Reconnect is amazing,” said Burley. “They are looking to bring healthier, sustainable and locally produced food into the university food services, support local farmers, enhance the local economy and create more vibrant communities built upon our region’s rich agricultural traditions.”