Commons to Hire Food Sustainability Consultant

John Turenne, the founder of Sustainable Food Systems, is helping Phillips Academy switch over to sustainable foods. He visited campus last Thursday to survey the current food system and speak on food sustainability. Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian Aggie Kip received an Abbot Grant last spring to hire Turenne, who will work with the school to establish a system of purchasing sustainable foods. Kip is responsible for overseeing the food served at Commons and making menu improvements to help students achieve a healthier diet. For years, Kip has been advocating for more drastic changes to be made to Andover’s menu. She said, “I believe Andover should finally decide to do something. Clearly, this is the way all our peer schools will go, so we shouldn’t wait, but lead the way in making the changes.” A shift to sustainable foods will require replacing many of the school’s international and cross-country food suppliers with local food suppliers, such as local farms. This will reduce the distance that the food travels and the shipping costs. Kip said that it is important for the school to build a relationship with local farms and to “learn how to network locally.” Practices on local farms produce fresh, seasonal foods that are not grown for the sake of mass production. They are more environmentally responsible and support farmers who are “close to home.” Sustainable foods are also more fresh and nutritional. Local farms will increase and vary crop growth if they have a customer as large as a high school, said Kip. The change to sustainable food would be gradual. It could start with serving apples, pears and apple cider made or grown locally, as well as buying eggs from local farms. With the new “Uncommons” ready to open, Kip has been more actively pressing for changes in more areas than just food sustainability. This week, she spoke to most of the Physical Education classes on food options at Commons and the huge differences that could be made in a student’s diet with just a few compromises. Some of her goals for Commons include serving more foods made of whole grain and whole wheat instead of refined wheat, having more salad dressings with unsaturated fat and reducing sugary beverages. Kip said, “From my research, I have seen the obvious and quick benefits of a healthy diet to a teen’s performance, and even their dental health.” Kim Kohn ’10 expressed interest in the possible changes that will be made to improve the food at Commons. “At home, my parents bought healthier foods, and I really didn’t eat many snack foods,” she said. “Here, the food options are too unbalanced, and unhealthy foods are much easier to access than healthy foods. Having chocolate waffles or pancakes with syrup for breakfast is not a bad thing, but you can’t eat that everyday.” Sustainable Food Systems (SSF), a consulting service that creates the link between an institution and the local agricultural food producers, will aid this effort to offer healthier food to students. John Turenne, who created SSF, has been nationally recognized for his leadership in the Sustainable Food Project at Yale University. His successful work planning, teaching and creating a sustainable dining program has provided a model for similar sustainable food service programs presently operating in numerous other schools, including Brown University, St. George’s and Phillips Exeter Academy. Turenne’s experience and expertise will guide Andover in its efforts to begin buying food sourced from local producers who use sustainable methods. “I am definitely pushing for awareness, because the way we eat and what we eat is obviously an impact on how we perform,” said Kip.