2022 Local Hero Awardee: Smith College Dining

Each year (minus a pandemic year or two), CISA presents Local Hero Awards to farms, businesses, or individuals who exemplify our mission of strengthening farms and engaging the community to build the local food economy. We applaud their hard work, social responsibility, and many contributions to sustaining local agriculture.

Andy Cox of Smith College Dining Services and Brad Morse of Outlook Farm

Smith College Dining Services stands out among its peers as a dedicated, creative, problem-solving partner to farms around the region.

Their stats are impressive. According to Andy Cox, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services, they spent $375,000 with farms in western Mass and $850,000 in New England in the last year they tallied up. Andy and Chef Dino Giordano can rattle off the names of the farms they buy from the most—including Outlook Farm, Mycoterra, and Queens Greens—because these are real, long-standing relationships. But what really stands out is how Smith Dining Services behaves as active participant in our local food system rather than a passive consumer. This is an institution that has power and resources that can be leveraged to make positive change outside of its own walls, and the staff takes that responsibility seriously.

There are small examples of this, like loaning a delivery van to the Sunderland Farm Collaborative in the early days of the pandemic. And there are innovative, ambitious examples too, including the work they’ve done to source local meat through the Whole Animals for the Whole Region project. In partnership with other local universities, Smith tackled this complicated question: how could they reliably source local meat, pay the farmers a fair price, and manage costs to stay within budget? They did an rfp to find out how much money would work for local farmers, set up contracts, and for the last several years they have been buying whole animals and managing the processing and delivery themselves for cost savings and efficiency. This is not just about bring a good buyer, which is so important by itself, but about being a partner—understanding farmers’ needs alongside their own values, thinking creatively about how they can work together, and putting in the work to make it happen. So for all of these reasons, CISA is honored to present a 2022 Local Hero Award to Smith College Dining Services.

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