NC State alumna Simone Saleh is on cloud nine. Neomonde Bakery, her family’s business, is growing fast and the new North Raleigh store she has been managing since graduating from the Poole College of Management in May is also busy. On Thanksgiving Eve customers flocked in for festive coffees and breads.
Saleh is most excited, however, about the bakery’s new business accounts, including hotels, Trader Joe’s supermarkets and, most recently, NC State dining halls. Neomonde Bakery now supplies 95 percent of University Dining’s bread.
“This is a coup,” Saleh says.
Including more local food is part of the “My Roots Are at NC State” sustainable dining program launched by University Dining this summer. Currently 25 percent of all dining hall food comes from North Carolina. This surpasses the national average, says University Dining Sustainability Coordinator Christopher Dunham, who adds that he anticipates that this number may grow exponentially next year.
“Students appreciate our efforts to increase local food. We receive terrific feedback,” Dunham says.
Farm to Fork
Stepping into Fountain Dining Hall you can see why. Large chalk boards itemize food items and the distance the food has traveled. The Mt. Olive Pickle Company in Mount Olive, N.C. provides pickled products which have traveled 70 miles, the sign reads, and pork and chicken from Chandler Foods, Inc. in Greensboro traveled only 82 miles.
Bright posters highlight alumni who are using their education to build their business. One poster highlights College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumna Amy Brooks who says her bachelor’s in natural resources, soil and water systems helped her grow her family’s compost business. Brooks Contractor now composts food waste from NC State dining halls.
Another poster shows alumni Carl Hollifield and Gary Cartwright now working as directors in the NC State Dairy Enterprise System. Howling Cow milk from dairy enterprises is on tap throughout all dining halls.
“Students like seeing alumni succeeding and applying their expertise back to their alma mater,” Dunham says.
Collaborating with local food growers is part of the campaign. At a recent farm-to-fork function hosted by University Dining more than 100 local food company owners brainstormed on ideas including an on-campus garden to supply fruits, herbs and vegetables to the dining halls.
Registered dietitian Lisa Eberhart says the program is succeeding because people connect local with freshness and nutritional value.
“We are committed to increasing the nutritional value of foods served by University Dining and incorporating local ingredients helps achieves that,” Eberhart says.
Saleh wants to continue collaborating with NC State. Even after graduating, her entrepreneurship and marketing professors continue to help her with marketing campaigns, catering sales and building customer databases.
“NC State has given me so much. Now I can give back.”