Last Tuesday, the New Haven Independent ran an article by staff writer Jay Dockendorf titled "Is this tomato 'sustainable'?". The article reports on Yale Dining's new initiative, the Uncommon Market, and how its inaccurate labels tout fruits and vegetables from across the continent as "local." The Independent was right to take Yale Dining to task for this gaffe; this sort of mislabeling is a mistake that requires immediate action. It's heartening to see so many students and community members taking a stand about the origins of the food they eat, and it's a lesson that deserves attention from policymakers and leaders around the nation.
Uncommon Market is indeed, uncommon: at the market, Yale Dining peddles produce at wholesale prices, and turns over its institutional purchasing deals to the individual's advantage. At wholesale prices, cherries get closer to the price of Cheetos, and overall, this innovation is good for increasing the consumption of healthy foods. It's an interesting model—one I like in the absence of larger systematic reform—for increasing access to real food.
Yale Dining has a cadre of collaborators promoting good food in New Haven. The Yale Farm is part of the Sustainable Food Project, a nationally recognized program, founded by Yale president Richard C. Levin and nationally recognized chef Alice Waters, that leads educational initiatives about sustainable food and agriculture, launched Yale's sustainable food program, and happens to run a one-acre market garden. The farm doesn't sell at Uncommon Market. Our produce—thousands of pounds of sustainably grown fruits and vegetables—gets sold at the local CitySeed farmers' market. CitySeed markets are producer-only markets: you must have grown it to sell it. In my mind, this is the best type of market, as it closes the distance between farmer and consumer, and returns value to the farmer whose hard work is feeding us.