Communications, Outreach, and Development Associate
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For Immediate Release
St. Johnsbury Academy Weekly Dinner Celebrates Local Farmers
It’s Wednesday evening at St. Johnsbury Academy and the cafeteria is set up family-style for the 270 students who are part of the school’s boarding program. This is a special meal that has taken the better part of a week to plan and the Academy’s teachers and other school staff are encouraged to attend as well. Tonight students and faculty will be treated to a dinner that is almost entirely produced in the Northeast Kingdom – the menu changing weekly depending on what’s in season and available.
Since the beginning of the school year, St. Johnsbury Academy has made firm their commitment to the local food community by sourcing as much food as possible from local farmers. Many purchases come through Green Mountain Farm Direct, a food hub run by Green Mountain Farm-to-School in the Northeast Kingdom, which gives the Academy access to many farmers’ products all in one place while also coordinating delivery – a convenience that encourages more local purchasing throughout the region.
“We’ve been working for quite awhile to purchase local food here at the Academy,” says James Bentley, instructor of English, director of environmental stewardship, and one of the leading voices in pushing for more local purchasing at the Academy, “We want to do whatever we can to use that purchasing footprint to do something good for the community.”
The sit-down dinner is more than just a good meal – it’s an experience for the students and faculty. A dress code must be adhered to and the Environmental Club researches the farmers and their farms from which the food will be sourced and prepares a presentation that is given before the start of the meal.
“For almost all of these students (that are boarding), English is not their first language,” says Bentley, “For them, this particular program is having an educational benefit, not only are they learning about farms in the NEK but they are presenting that publicly in English.”
The person behind the scenes, creating the menu and driving the purchase of local food that is incorporated into every meal at St. Johnsbury Academy, is the Executive Chef Sam Ramer. “Without him,” Bentley says, “this really wouldn’t be happening.”
St. Johnsbury Academy made a commitment in the beginning of the year to use their purchasing footprint, as one the larger food purchasers in the NEK, to support the local community which ties directly to the school’s mission. They are also doing so while meeting federal guidelines and serving meals that the students will enjoy.
“I think a lot of it is the creativity that Sam has, the support from the administration and food service workers, and the support from the students,” says Livy Bulger, Farm Direct coordinator, “The more support you have from different components of the eating community – cooks and eaters – the better because that value set is able to expand beyond just one person and the whole community benefits as a whole.”
“Also, St. Johnsbury Academy’s commitment to sourcing local food where they can is really adding up and having a significant positive impact on farm in the region,” she added.