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One SUNY Plattsburgh student set out with a plan. She had the vision to make Algonquin Dining Hall the "Green Hub" on campus, and RuthAnn Skowronek is well on her way to fulfilling her goals.
Skowronek, a junior from Readington, N.J., had two areas of focus - introducing locally grown organic produce into the Algonquin menus and making sure that the take-out packaging for Al's was biodegradable.
"I think these are things that work well for this campus," said Skowronek, who also works at Clover Mead Farm, an organic operation in Keeseville.
Last fall, Skowronek became one of the 10 student members of the 15-member Dining Advisory Committee (DAC) on campus.
The committee, formed through College Auxiliary Services, has the task every fall semester to develop a list of changes and/or enhancements for the dining program that is then negotiated with Sodexho Campus Services.
Wayne Duprey, executive director of CAS, asked Skowronek to join the DAC after they had collaborated on a composting project at Algonquin.
"RuthAnn is a pretty amazing, dedicated and strong willed student," said Duprey. "What impressed me the most was that these two efforts added cost to the residential meal plan price but the DAC voted in favor of both unanimously, and the committee is constituted with two-thirds students."
Skowronek is now working to spread the word about the changes in Algonquin through the work of her capstone project.
She has combined her art studio and chemistry minors into a unique individualized studies major. She has created organic labels for Algonquin in her printmaking class and will produce posters and brochures. She is also interested in setting up a website about the "Green Hub" at SUNY Plattsburgh.
"I think this is a draw to our school for prospective students," said Skowronek. "It's good to have lots of options, which requires creative thinking. It is also important to localize our consumption."
According to Duprey, sustainability is the "hot button" in college dining programs.
"Our ability to achieve success will hinge on establishing relationships within the local agricultural community. RuthAnn and her colleagues will be instrumental to our success," said Duprey. "The purchasing of projects locally provides fresher choices, better tasting and higher quality food, benefits the local economy and should result in lower shipping/freight fees."
Josef Quirinale, general manager of Sodexho, said that Skowronek's vision helped campus dining services to map the direction that Algonquin has taken.
"Dining service belongs to the students. We function more effectively when we listen to and work to meet their needs. I see our work with RuthAnn to be a rewarding collaboration," said Quirinale.
"It is another way that Dining Services can partner with the College, specifically, in this case, with RuthAnn's development in her area of study and the education of the Algonquin dining community."
Skowronek said one driving force behind her actions was reading the book, Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect by David W. Orr.
"In the book, he talks about how disconnected our thinking has become from processes involved in producing things we need and use everyday. He asks his reader to question the operational ethics of systems around them and envision more environmentally conscious options. SUNY Plattsburgh's dining halls are one of the many service systems on campus that need to be redesigned with the earth in mind. Students have the power to change things here. If you want it, talk about it," she said.
"RuthAnn is the environmental ambassador for our dining program," said Duprey. "She is evidence of how one individual can change a system. Her energy and motivation moved the DAC to take environmental concerns from discussions to implementation."
To learn more about the Algonquin Hall Green Hub project, please contact:
Executive Director of College Auxilliary Services
Phone: (518) 564-2033