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Sustainable agriculture influences Saint Francis chefs

August 16, 2011

In February Saint Francis University chefs attended a conference on sustainable agriculture, and students may see some menu changes as a result. Torvian Executive Chef Terry McMullen and Executive Sous Chef Michael Passanita attended the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA) Farming for the Future Conference in State College.

The Event is widely regarded for bringing together an audience of over 2000 farmers, processors, consumers, students, environmentalists, business and community leaders, and chefs. Attendees learn practical training for farmers, environmental issues, and sustainability.

This year PASA offered a pre-conference training session “Sustainability in the Foodservice Industry.” The training session was the first of its kind that focused on farmers training chefs. It provided 40 Parkhurst chefs, including McMullen and Passanita, an exclusive opportunity to be introduced to local producers and their products. They also discussed preparation techniques and learned how others are incorporating more and more fresh and local foods into their menus.

After attending the two day training session McMullen and Passanita want to make some changes to the Torvian Dining Hall menu. They plan to use different cuts of meat that are healthier for the students and for the groups to which they offer catering services. They also want to switch to grass-fed beef, a superior, organic meat. They have been working on finding a local supplier of grass-fed beef.

“It really helps the environment and it gives a better cut of meat. We’d like to buy as much locally as we can,” says Passanita of the grass-fed beef.

McMullen and Passanita have already taken some steps toward adding more organic ingredients to the Torvian dishes. They have an herb garden outside of Torvian Hall and they also have a green house full of fresh herbs. Altogether they grow 29 different herbs that they use in their foods all year round.

Torvian Dining Hall, as well as the entire Saint Francis University campus, partakes in many green initiatives. Torvian saves paper by posting their menu by the front doors, and they also have the menu displayed on screens in the dining room. Since they have stopped printing so many copies of the menu they have reduced the amount of paper and ink that is being used.

Torvian offers trayless dining which cuts down on trash and food waste. Instead of filling up their trays with too much food and letting it go to waste, students take one plate at a time and are less likely to waste. The trayless dining also cuts back on the amount of water used because there are fewer dishes to be washed daily.

Other waste like shredded paper and coffee grounds are also put to good use. Passanita and McMullen take waste such as this home with them. They either put it in their gardens or into their compost.

Passanita, in cooperation with the university maintenance staff, is looking toward a grant that will help to start composting on campus. It will reduce trash and save money on garbage. It will help the environment and fertilize the herb gardens.

Passanita is hopeful about his new organic menu items. He wants to make fresh foods that are healthy and affordable, as well as pleasing, to the client. “It’s great for the client and customers that eat here. It’s all worth it to save money and help the environment,” he explains.