Food miles

University Farms Manager Huw McConochie (left) and Kevan Downing, Head of Hospitality at the FUW launch

University Farms Manager Huw McConochie (left) and Kevan Downing, Head of Hospitality at the FUW launch

16 September 2008

Tuesday 16 September, 2008
University cuts food miles

Aberystwyth University has made significant inroads into reducing its carbon footprint by sourcing up to 90% of its food from local suppliers.

Over the past few months TaMed Da, the University restaurant on Penglais campus, has gone a step further by serving Welsh Black beef and Welsh lamb reared on the University's own farms, along side more established local produce from Rachel's Organic Dairy, Birchgrove Eggs and local butcher Robert Rattray.

Now University farms manager Huw McConochie is looking at increasing the range of produce grown on the farms. In September they will be providing potatoes, and there are plans under consideration to grow oil seed rape that could be used to produce cooking oil for the kitchens and bio-fuel.

Over the summer these initiatives generated a great deal of media interest and formed the basis for a campaign launch by the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) during the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show. Huw and Kevan Downing, Head of Hospitality at Aberystwyth University, were guests at the launch of the Union’s ‘Buy the Welsh One’ campaign.

Speaking to a packed audience of journalists FUW President Gareth Vaughan congratulated the University and described the development as an excellent example of how people and organisations can source more food from local producers.

Addressing the journalists Huw explained how these developments have dramatically reduced food miles. In the case of the beef and lamb the total food miles from farm gate to plate is as little as 36 miles. 
A key factor in the success of the venture has been the quality and freshness of the food according to Kevan Downing.
‘The hospitality department is constantly striving to reduce its carbon footprint, whilst providing students with exciting, fresh food and a healthy balanced diet, sourced locally wherever possible.’

University restaurant transformed
The University’s catering facilities on the Penglais campus have been transformed following a £300,000 facelift.

Originally opened in September 2007 under the brand name TaMed Da – which means ‘something good’, the restaurant at Penbryn has been extended to include a conservatory and an outside eating area which was completed at the beginning of the summer.

Kevan said; “We wanted to produce something which was as good as, if not better, than anything the students could find in town. We now offer a full range of fresh and healthy food – a salad and soup bar, a carvery, paninis, speciality foods, fresh vegetables, a grab-n-go counter, and a Fair Trade coffee and juice bar. It also features a cookery theatre so people can see their food being prepared in from of them.”

Such has been the success of the re-launch that sales have increased 30% and TaMed Da is set to break the £1m turnover barrier for the very first time.

As part of the venture TaMed da is introducing a number of new features for the new academic year.  Kevan added; “We will be launching our own monthly newspaper, ‘The Foodancial Times’, with special features and promotions, seasonal recipes and letters to the Editor etc.”

The name TaMed Da was coined by Dr Catrin Hughes, the University’s Registrar and Secretary. Catrin launched the new conservatory in May and was presented with a ‘T’ shirt to mark the occasion.