When Hannah Dugoni reaches her fork across the table at a restaurant and asks, “Are you gonna eat that?,” she is probably not referring to your fries. Instead, she is most likely talking about the kale — or cauliflower, or broccoli, or Brussels sprouts — that you immediately pushed aside when the rest of your meal came.
Dugoni, a junior from Portland, Oregon, is a self-described health nut who credits her love of local, sustainable food to both her long-term vegetarian lifestyle and her upbringing.
“I grew up with the notion that we should always know where our food comes from and how it was produced,” Dugoni said, adding that her family, like many others in the area, has a vegetable garden and raises chickens in the backyard.
Portland, along with other West Coast cities like San Francisco and Seattle, is quickly gaining notoriety for its emphasis on the “locavore” lifestyle, which centers around eating foods that were grown fewer than 100 miles away, most often on sustainable farms.
But locavores are few and far between in Atlanta, and gaining access to fresh and local food is a challenge for even the most determined college student. That’s where Dugoni hopes to change things.
With the help of a grant from the Emory Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI), Dugoni created Emory Local Roots, a program dedicated to providing students with easy access to fresh, local food at an affordable price.
After signing up through the Emory Dining website, students will receive a weekly bag of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other locally-made products like jams, bread, cheese and granola.
Students can pick up the reusable bags at the Farmers Market on Cox Hall Bridge every Tuesday, then return them the next week to be refilled. Emory Local Roots costs $40 for one month — or four full bags — and students will be able to use Dooley Dollars to pay.
In keeping with the program’s commitment to fresh, sustainable food, the bags will contain only seasonal items.
This means that students will receive different items depending on their availability so don’t expect fresh strawberries or tomatoes in the dead of winter. But Dugoni doesn’t just want the items to be seasonal — she wants them to be useful.
“You’re not going to get an eggplant a week and have it sit in your dorm and rot until we give you a new one,” Dugoni said. “You’ll get items that are easy to prepare in a dorm kitchen, or ones that can be eaten raw, like carrots or bell peppers.”
Additionally, the bags will contain two or three non-fruit or vegetable items per week, like pita and hummus or peanut butter. These items will be dispensed at regular intervals as well so that students have ample time to finish the products before receiving new ones.
Perhaps best of all, Emory Local Roots requires almost no work on the part of the student, which is just what Dugoni envisioned.
“[Local Roots] helps people make a very easy and convenient change in their purchasing and eating habits, which is essential to changing their lifestyles as a whole,” she said.
As a Predictive Health minor, Dugoni understands that people not only need to change their lifestyle habits, but also educate themselves about the importance of eating locally and sustainably.
“Every week we’ll have recipe cards and pamphlets explaining how the food we’re providing is different from the mass-produced food you’ll find at the grocery store,” Dugoni said.
In doing so, Dugoni hopes that Emory Local Roots will help students understand why eating sustainably is better for their health, the environment and the local economy. Ideally, she said, students will take these values and apply them to their lives after college.
Dugoni, who hopes to one day expand the program to universities in both Atlanta and Portland, is passionate about her cause.
“I want other students to care about where their food comes from and how it was produced as much as I do,” Dugoni said. “The health of our nation depends on it.”
– By Jordan Morell, Contributing Writer