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Harvard, Not Students, Should Pay for Local Food Options

By Amy Y. Li
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

CommonWealth Kitchen, a Dorchester nonprofit, is bringing local food businesses into Harvard kitchens. The nonprofit rents out kitchen space to local food start-ups, many of which are minority-owned, and then connects them with large operations in need of food — including hospitals, offices, and, universities.

Last summer, Harvard and other local universities partnered with CommonWealth to purchase products from these start-ups. Though it is more expensive for the University to buy food products from these small vendors as opposed to large wholesalers, the appeal of local food seems to outweigh this cost.

We appreciate the positive effects of Harvard’s initiative to support local vendors and give back to the surrounding community. Given its large wealth and influence, as well as its sometimes pernicious effects on the surrounding neighborhoods, we have repeatedly asked that Harvard give back more to the greater Cambridge and Boston community. Sourcing food from these local businesses is an important method of support, and we are also happy to see the increased diversity in food options that the deal seems poised to yield. As many of the small food startups in question are minority-owned and have culinary styles that might be unknown to a lot of students, we also hope that HUDS will display information on the origins of these local products, if possible.

But beyond these hopes, it is vitally important that Harvard itself absorb the extra cost associated with buying local food rather than passing it onto students. Tuition is already a serious strain on many students and their families, and in improving food options Harvard must not worsen this financial burden. Particularly for middle-income students not on financial aid who would bear the full weight of the cost increase, we are apprehensive about the effect of these new purchases.

Also, it is important that this outsourcing does not disadvantage existing HUDS workers. The last HUDS strike is still in recent memory, so we are very aware of their struggles. If the increased cost of local food procurement adversely affects HUDS workers, that offers another reason for caution. We believe that Harvard should absolutely expand the variety of food options and work with local businesses. But in doing so it cannot pass on the costs of that decision to students and employees.

In addition, as Harvard thinks about expanding food options in a way that takes into account a diversity of backgrounds, we also hope that it thinks about offering more inclusive meals for those with dietary restrictions — including vegan, vegetarian, Halal, and Kosher options, to name just a few — into the daily menu. Students with these restrictions deserve the same quality of food as everyone else, and we hope the University seizes on this newfound relationship with local food suppliers to ensure they get it.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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