UR Dining Services is pushing for fresh, local foods over national brands and suppliers in a new partnership with Harvest Table Culinary Group.

According to Harvest Table’s website, its team has a “food-first” philosophy in providing “innovative, authentic and personalized food experiences” to partners. The group values where it sources from along with making its meals nutritionally balanced and additive-free.

“Knowing exactly where our ingredients come from and respectfully using them to design authentic dishes is very important to us,” Executive Chef Tony Pignagrande said in a statement.

“We know that students appreciate products that are grown, raised, and processed locally for the nutritional benefits they provide,” Pignagrande continued. “So we’re very excited that Harvest Table shares the philosophy that wellbeing is universal.”

With this new dining program, UR becomes one of a few universities nationally to show their commitment to locally-procured, personalized, and freshly-made food.

According to Dining Service, students can expect to see the effect of the new partnership mainly in meals at the Danforth and Douglass Dining Centers, with labels showing what the dish is, where it is sourced from, and allergy and dietary information. Dining Services plans to incorporate Harvest Table’s philosophy into the Faculty Club and Meliora Catering as the year goes on.

Pignagrande will work to create new menus with Harvest Table’s Culinary Council, focusing on consumer insights, health and wellness commitments, innovation, seasonality, and community feedback when preparing meals.

“[Harvest Table] realize[s] how much work goes into sustaining a strong local food program, and they will help us expand our commitment even further,” Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf said. “We’re going to be much more personalized and ‘chef driven,’ really reducing our use of national brands and suppliers.”

Furthermore, Harvest Table’s purchasing standards align well with those of the University. Currently, the University only purchases antibiotic-free chicken and turkey, grass-fed cows, preservative-free, all-natural deli meat, eggs from cage-free chickens, and antibiotic-free, non-GMO milk and yogurt.

“Everything begins with the food, making sure that we’re getting good clean ingredients to put out vibrant, chef-designed dishes and options,” Schauf said. “While we’ve been doing a good job with our local and sustainable purchasing over the years, Harvest Table allows us to build even stronger relationships.”

Aside from Dining’s new partnership, Schauf mentioned a few other changes for the upcoming academic year.

There will now be meal swipes in the Pit for Wok on Up, Freshens, and the Salad Bar from 8-10 p.m. every night. Besides the Kosher station, all chicken will be Halal in Danforth and Douglass, as well as Halal beef burgers in Wilson Commons. There is also a new Meliora on-the-go catering menu.

Schauf also spoke of expanded options in all categories and enhanced signage in regard to accommodating students with dietary restrictions and allergies.

For the future, Dining Services is working to put up a new website.

Tagged: Dining

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