Michele Gross

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Michele Gross

Interview by:Gabrielle Greene

Q: What words or images would you use to describe this community and why do you choose these?

A: Ill describe the college community. I think it is an exciting, committed, hard-working, set of individuals.

Q: What actions are you engaged in that relate to helping the environment, the local economy or other aspects of peoples well-being?

A: As the director of dining, we are interested in purchasing food that has the lowest impact on the environment, which is connected to our goal of buying local food. We are committed to buying as much natural food as possible, so that we do not buy where pesticides or other chemicals have been added to the food. We buy food that is considered to be humanely raised or socially responsibly manufactured or processed. We attempt to minimize food waste through education, through portioning and through monitoring cooks production. We try to send as much food waste as we can to a composting process. Well, If were talking about a general definition of well-being, then I guess I would also include that we cook as much food from scratch as possible. That way,we can tell the community what ingredients are in the food theyre eating so that people can make good choices. Finally, we have a program that is called well-being indicator that has a green arrow next to the dish, and the greener the arrow is, the healthier and the less impactful it is on the environment. So, we hope this helps with students making decisions.

Q: What are the benefits of taking these actions?

A: Oberlin wants to have a dining program that has good food while having that food be committed to good health and environmental issues. So I think the benefit is both the education, though Oberlin students are often the ones educating us, but its both the education and the developing of habits that hopefully people will continue to utilize after they graduate.

Q: In what ways do you feel that Oberlin has been ahead of the curve on important issues of our time?

A: This will be a sort of historic reference for you, but in 1999, a student wrote a paper they gave me that said we should be buying more local. When I said I thought this was a good idea,

the company that was managing us at the point said, Oh, were not sure we could do that. That was one of the key reasons that we decided at that point to start looking for different companies to manage. Bon Appetit was a good choice for Oberlin in terms of matching goals because they believe in buying local, buying natural, cooking from scratch, having their vegan and vegetarian cuisine be just as interesting as their meat offerings, sustainability, and fair treatment at each step of the process.

"Oberlin is wonderfully a very unique situation in which people are much more committed than you might find typical."

Q: How do you think attitudes towards the environment have changed over time in this community? How your own attitudes changed?

A: Just wanted to mention some of the changes brought out over time were student initiatives. Tray-less here at Stevenson. We introduced the reusable container, that was a student initiative. Students have brought different initiatives to us over the yearsand we tryto implement them. I think Oberlin is a wonderfullyunique situation in which people are much more committed than you might find typical. What changes is sort of what the right solutions are. Sometimes one might come up with a solution they think is good and then find out it has unintended consequences. You have to be careful to continue to think about and review the decisions youre making and what might they be affecting. I think again that its sort of an awareness issue. Probably 15 years ago, when I left my office for a meeting, wouldnt have turned my lights off. Now I think about that. So, I do think practices have changed and I think again more about how much water we need to do certain processes; is there a way to not use so much water, because water is such an important item that isnt always as available as one hopes it will be. I think routine changes over time as you learn what might be better.

Q: Do you feel that Oberlin has a strong identity? How would you describe it?

A: I think Oberlin again is a very committed set of individuals in the community. Certainly in addition to living their lives as best they can, its a very exciting place because of how bright and inquisitive and interested everyone is in learning.

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