We, the editors of the Bennington Free Press, consider fair and accurate reporting to be a cornerstone of our work. Hence our delight at receiving the letter printed above, which we hope will clarify some misconceptions arising from our recent article on Aramark, “Rethinking the Tragedy of the Commons.” Many points made in the letter are compelling and important, their omission in the article remains regrettable, and for this we take responsibility. But some are worth a closer look.
Last term, the administration told the BFP that putting local food into the dining hall was one of the ultimate goals of the changeover. The letter above, however, claims that co-signers Olivia Gerber and Bruna Lobato placed unjustified importance on this as a reason for the switch to Aramark. It is certainly a claim worth questioning. The letter goes on to say that “we are still in the process of figuring out how to do it [access local food]” and that it is a process “currently under discussion.” This is true, but the fact that the obstacles standing in the way of more locally sourced food are significant does not in itself invalidate the administration’s claims. The letter also refers to statistics about food sourcing given by Aramark’s head chef, Mike Crane. The BFP has plans for an interview with Crane. In the meantime, we relied upon statistics provided by Dane Whitman ’15. Whitman is a member of both the Bennington Sustainable Food Project and the Student Dining Committee, which meets on a regular basis with a mix of College and Aramark administration. In an interview, Whitman told the BFP that all of the College’s produce was sourced by Black River, a local food distributor. Bizarrely, however, Whitman also signed the letter printed above. It’s unfortunate that such a mistake made its way into the paper; fact checking is a crucial part of journalism and one that should have been better utilized in this case.
Finally, the article did claim that Aramark’s size gave them “the ability to buy local produce at a much lower cost,” but this does not necessarily imply an exploitative relationship, just the ability to coordinate purchases and pickups from farms across the region. In this case, the $0.09/lb disparity does present some troubling questions. The fact that Aramark low-balled the student garden on squash is something that would of course have been mentioned in our original article, had it come up in our interview with the BSFP’s representative.
All that said, Imbruce and co. present some valuable information about the challenges facing the school as it looks to improve the amount of locally sourced food in the dining hall. The startling statistic that only 10 to 20% of the weekly produce is provided by Black River should be a call to action for students interested in increasing that percentage. As this issue develops, the Bennington Free Press will work to open up a space where student voices can mingle with those of the administration, and this letter represents the first step in such an exchange.