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BENNINGTON — Bennington College will begin purchasing two staples of its dining program from farms in the region, part of an ongoing effort to reduce the institution's reliance on single-use plastics and strengthen its ties to the local food system.

The college will now source eggs — the top product used at the college's Commons Dining Hall — from Feather Ridge Farm in Columbia County, New York, and sweet potatoes from Laughing Child Farms in Pawlet.

Director of Dining Services Steve Bohrer, joined by staff, students and faculty, announced the changes Thursday afternoon at the dining hall, which reopened this summer following renovations. Students from visiting faculty member Tatiana Abatemarco's "Gender and Agriculture: Market and Subsistence" course served muffins made with Feather Ridge Farm eggs.

The dining program in the past has used liquid eggs — about 275 cases per academic year — produced in the Midwest and shipped to Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, according to Bohrer and the college's communications office. Each case consisted of two, 20-gallon plastic bags that were not recyclable. The sweet potatoes from the Pawlet farm will supplant Idaho-grown potatoes that also arrived in non-recyclable plastic bags.

Other recent or future changes include using Vermont-based King Arthur Flour for baked goods and brewing tea by bulk, Bohrer said. The college also no longer uses disposable products for catered events, instead opting for china and glass.

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The dining program will now incorporate individually cooked eggs, and breakfasts will increasingly rely on whole grains, vegetables, potatoes, beans and rice, according to Bohrer.

Megan Banda, a freshman in Abatemarco's class, said she thought students would appreciate changes like the egg-related switch. "It feels more like a meal that you want to come to dining hall and have," she said.

Students from a course on plastic pollution taught by Judith Enck, a senior fellow at the college's Center for the Advancement of Public Action, also attended the Thursday announcement. Bohrer's interactions with both classes influenced his efforts to overhaul the dining program, he said.

Susan Sgorbati, CAPA's director, said this kind of collaboration between faculty, students and staff may serve as an example for other institutions.

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