Food Day in New Haven: Success Stories and Plans for the Future

Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools have received national attention for their innovative sustainable food programs. To celebrate Food Day in the Elm City, Yale students, University dining hall staff from UNITE HERE Local 35, and NHPS cafeteria workers from UNITE HERE Local 217 spent Monday assessing how far we’ve come with real food and real jobs, and what still needs to be done. 

Food Day participants toured the kitchen at Yale’s Trumbull College

The day began with tours of the kitchens at James Hillhouse High School and Trumbull, one of Yale’s residential colleges. At Hillhouse, workers expressed concern about staffing levels after a round of layoffs, with no more than a dozen employees in the entire kitchen and only two cooks preparing pizza for nine hundred kids.  But the kitchen staff were proud of the school’s new salad bar, and determined to fight any new cuts to staffing and benefits in the cafeterias.

The Yale kitchen was drastically different. Dining hall workers produce a stunning number of dishes for students, many with local or organic ingredients. Perhaps most impressive was workers’ sense of pride in the food they produced. 

Chef Stu Comen led a cooking class with Yale undergraduates

During the afternoon, Yale students and NHPS cooks took a cooking class with Yale’s Chef Stu Comen, who has worked at the university for over thirty years. The previous day, Stu and Jonah Quinn, a Yale senior involved with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, had visited the Yale Farm to pick out some ingredients for a very local meal. Stu led the group in preparing a delicious and sustainable meal of a green salad with golden beets and fresh raspberry vinaigrette, corn and leek tart, fettuccini with sage butter and butternut squash, and roast pork.

Over dinner, students and workers discussed the impact of the University’s decision to close Commons, the largest dining hall on campus, for dinner. According to Tyisha Walker, a cook’s helper and alderwoman-elect for Ward 23, closing Commons was making it difficult for cooks to prepare sustainable meals from scratch on time.

To end the day, students and workers led a conversation with other Yale undergrads on real food and real jobs, highlighting workers’ leadership in making sustainable food work for New Haven. Panelists also challenged their audience to join the struggle to bring back dinner service at Commons. The panel was just the beginning of a citywide conversation on ensuring access to good food and real employment opportunities into the future.

Filed in: K-12, The Blog, Universities Tags: , , , , , , ,
© 2015 Real Food Real Jobs. All rights reserved.
Site maintained by UNITE HERE.