A Dry Season

Washington University of St. Louis is committed to sourcing at least 20 percent of its product from local vendors despite a major drought that has ravaged the school’s area suppliers.

Washington University of St. Louis is committed to sourcing at least 20 percent of its product from local vendors. That became somewhat more difficult as a major drought ravaged the school’s Midwestern environs.

Yet, WSLU Dining Services, managed by Bon Appetit Mgt. Co., continues to keep up the local sourcing commitment, and at least so far without raising prices for students. How? By adjusting the menu to emphasize products that continue to be available while de-emphasizing those that have become scarce and much more expensive.

For example, because greens have been one of the crops especially hard hit, the department has switched to using more vegetable salads utilizing root vegetables like turnips and beets. Hard-to-get fruits like local apples have been replaced for the most part with citrus (admittedly not local) as well as more esoteric choices like pears.

Other local produce hard hit have included peppers, eggplant and fresh herbs, as well as meats (hay prices—and hence meat prices—have skyrocketed). On the other hand, grains and legumes have remained widely available, so the department is using these more extensively.

“We are constantly reinventing the menus and try to be seasonal in our approach,” says Executive Chef John Griffiths. “Menu planning remains fluid, allowing us to make daily substitutions if necessary. Our chefs have full authority to determine what they serve in their operations and we depend on their talent and creativity.”