Students finding more locally grown and raised food at UWEC dining centers

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The UW-Extension says in the last 3 or 4 years, the "buying local" movement has been growing in the Chippewa Valley. And now UW-Eau Claire's Blugold Dining is taking another step forward in joining the movement.

An agreement with Cadott-based crescent meats means the dining centers on campus will now be serving meat products that have been locally raised and processed. As a result, the school says now nearly 20% of the 4.3 million dollars spent on food by Blugold dining is bought locally.

"The overall strategic plan of the university is to become more sustainable and buying local is a plank of that sustainability platform," says Christian Wise. He is the manager of Blugold Dining and says buying local can tend to be slightly more expensive but the quality is often better.

"It's actually overall lowering of the carbon footprint because transportation costs are cut down and it stimulates the local economy as opposed to an economy that's several hundreds of miles if not thousands of miles away."

"The major benefits are two fold. One is...for the local people, it's another market to sell for if you have produce to sell. Another is for the people who are buying from them. You know when it's produced locally it's fresh." Ag agent Randy Knapp says the "buying local" boom has been evident lately in the increase of farmers markets to nearly every community.

"Some of the farmers have gotten together so they make sure that they have the products when they're needed and with the same quality time after time," says Knapp.

Wise says the variety on their menu and the Wisconsin growing season limits how much of their food costs can be spent locally. He adds because they are a state school, they need to be cost aware.

"We work really hard at keeping the fees for food as low as we can but provide the best quality that we can."

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