Forging ties with the local community has become a key goal for many colleges and foodservice management companies these days. But Houghton College has taken that mission a step further.
During the fall semester this year, the Houghton, N.Y., liberal arts college started serving Jockey Street Coffee Roasters products in the dining hall. Jockey Street isn’t simply produced locally; the company was started by a group of Houghton alumni.
Three different blends—a light, medium and dark—are available, along with a decaf brew. Off campus, the brand is sold primarily online and at farmers’ markets and to local grocers and foodservice businesses, but eventually the company has an eye on opening its own retail shops, says Andrew Shaner, district manager for Metz Culinary Management, which handles the campus dining services.
“We want to support the alumni, and the college benefits by being able to tie into these products,” Shaner says. “It’s a win-win because not only are we able to feature a local product, but also serve students a product from one of their own.”
The new coffee brand was rolled out with signage that explained the Houghton connection and explored the different blends offered. So far, the medium roast is the most popular.
Partnering with local vendors is nothing new for Houghton. A local ice cream maker is featured in the dining hall, and seasonal produce such as apples and potatoes are sourced nearby. A campus coffee house serves Finger Lakes Coffee from nearby Victor, N.Y.
The college invites these local suppliers to visit campus to showcase their products and talk about their origins as a way to engage with students. They are encouraged to talk about their farm or facility and how they got started. Sometimes tastings are organized.
“That’s what students are into these days,” Shaner says. “They want to know that not only are they buying a local product but what they are supporting by doing so. They’re into sustainability and really knowing that farmer by name.”
The biggest challenge is finding producers who can supply sufficient volume. “Being that we are essentially a restaurant for 1,000 students, we use a lot of produce,” he notes.
Before COVID hit, lining up local vendors was often a matter of working with large co-ops that had connections with area farms. Since 2020, some of those connections have vanished, and finding suitable suppliers involves establishing relationships directly with farmers, Shaner says. But the relations remain essential.
“These strategic partnerships not only help with sustainability, since there is less traveling, but they also allow us to offer the freshest local products to our student base,” Shaner says.
As a company, Metz partners with a number of state agricultural organizations promoting local producers. Seeking out local suppliers is one aspect of Metz’s commitment to operate sustainable facilities based on clients’ priorities and preferences. Other practices include partnering with local and state agencies to promote local products and companies, water and energy conservation measures, use of biodegradable disposables and reusable containers, recycling and use of environmentally friendly cleaning. Products.