Fair Trade Cafe hosted a food-tasting event last week previewing a vegetarian lunch option available for ASU students next fall.
“Our goal was to create an affordable, tasty and healthy lunch option for students,” community cook Ingrid Hirtz said. “We also wanted to raise awareness about food sustainability.”
The new program is a partnership between Hirtz, a personal chef with an interest in sustainable food, and Michele White, owner of Fair Trade and professor of social work at ASU.
Within the proposed program, students purchase 20 meals ahead of time for five dollars each, totaling $100 or one individually for six dollars. Without 50 people signed up for the meal plan, Hirtz mentioned, Fair Trade cannot prepare individual meals. Each lunch will have three dishes, with one always comprised of legumes or grains, a vegetarian source of protein.
The first time a student buys a meal, they receive his or her lunch in one reusable container. The next time the student comes to Fair Trade to receive another lunch, they give the employee their container and the student receives a new one. Leaving one container at the cafe ensures that forgetting the item will not stop a student from getting their meal.
“We wanted to offer something to students that lives up to sustainability standards,” Hirtz said. “As such, all of the ingredients used in the lunches are organic and local.”
At the tasting, attendees had a selection of twelve cold vegetarian dishes. Hirtz explained that the samplings needed to be cold because the lunches are designed to be easy to take on the go for students. The choices ranged from ginger garlic tofu to spaghetti with peanut sauce and mixed vegetables to Middle Eastern chickpea salad.
Elizabeth Vasquez, a nursing senior, came to the event because she received an email from the university advertising the event. Though she is not a vegetarian, Vasquez sampled all twelve dishes. Her favorite, she said, was the cucumber salad.
In addition to the unique tastes presented in each dish, Vasquez also appreciated the price of the lunch.
“Local food is often too expensive for me to buy, so (the five dollar option) really works,” Vasquez explained. “I like farmers markets but the food is too expensive for me to buy frequently.”
Hirtz echoed Vasquez’s sentiment, highlighting the price as a main reason for its potential appeal to students. Fair Trade has attempted to become part of ASU’s Maroon and Gold program, but the representatives have not yet allowed the cafe to participate.
Laura Peck, associate dean for Barrett, the at the Downtown campus, said that potential frustrations with Taylor Place dining could make this program particularly attractive to students.
“At this point, I’m not sure where this program will go,” Peck said. “The fact that 40 people RSVP’d almost immediately to the tasting is a great start, though.”
The sustainability aspect of the lunch option makes it especially appealing for individuals like Peck, herself a vegan.
“I think that it’s important to eat along the food chain for environmental reasons,” Peck said, adding that it is nice to eat a high-quality meal that is not mass-produced.
Hirtz and other employees of Fair Trade collected surveys from the attendees, promising to take the input from the tasting into consideration when creating the menu for the fall.
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Fair Trade Cafe to offer new lunch options for ASU students