Daily News Archive
From April 5, 2006                                                                                                        

UC Berkeley Leads Growing Organic Food Trend
(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2006)
On Monday April 3, University of California Berkeley became the first college in the United States to offer students an officially certified organic salad bar with all the fixings. While some campuses throughout the nation offer some organic food, UC Berkeley is the first to receive organic certification from one of the nation's major certifying bodies. The school's salad bar has been certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers, a Santa Cruz-based trade association that certifies restaurants and processors to standards outlined by the USDA National Organic Program.

By next year, the campus expects to offer similar organic salad bars at all four of the dining halls managed by Cal Dining, a campus food service.

The certification means the veggies, garbanzo beans and even the faux bacon bits made out of soy are grown through environmentally friendly farming practices that do not use toxic pesticides, and are prepared for consumption in a separate, specially certified kitchen at the Crossroads dining commons. The separate facility ensures the organic goods do not inadvertently become mixed up with the regular veggies destined for deli sandwiches and hamburgers.

The salad bar drew a brisk business during its first day in business. Some students did not know they were dishing up special peas and corn. Others are excited about the new organic certification.

Freshman Ryan Jackson, 19, is says he is proud the campus is taking a lead in going organic. He's a member of the campus sustainability coalition, which lobbies for environmentally friendly practices. "It tastes pretty much the same as before," he said, "but it's good we have all the organic produce."

UC Berkeley had to adhere to rigorous standards to achieve the organic certification. The process started about a year ago. "We were seeing student comments asking for organic," said Chuck Davies, assistant director and executive chef with Cal Dining. He said he wanted to offer more than a few goodies with the organic label.

Mr. Davies and student employee Lorraine Aguilar, a senior studying nutritional science, worked out a plan outlining how the campus would handle the organic produce, arranging everything from separate utensils and cutting boards to special instructions for dishwashing and pest control with specially approved products.

To cut down on the expense typically associated with organic produce, Cal Dining negotiated with vendors and worked out a deal with a campus alumna who owns a salad dressing company offering organic products. Davies expects the organic offerings will cost between 10 percent and 15 percent more than traditionally grown produce.

TAKE ACTION: Get your school to go organic! For more information on the growing nationwide trend on schools going organic, and steps that you can take to get your school to serve organic food, see the January/February edition of the School Pesticide Monitor.