Posted 6:51 AM 9/25/2012 : UA's switch to healthier eats, gives local growers a financial boost
TUCSON- Dishes clattering, the smell of onions sizzling on the stove.
The lunch hour is in full swing at the Cellar Bistro at the University of Arizona.
It's now a bustling burger joint on the lower level of the student union. But that wasn't always the case.
"Three years ago it was kind of a floundering hamburger joint and so we went to work on re-engineering the menu," says Jon Levengood of UA Dining Services.
The result? Healthier options on the menu. "All of our students have grown up watching the Food Network, so people are very educated about food choices," Levengood says. "Processed foods are out, local is in."
That's where cattle rancher Sidney Spencer steps in. She owns the Lazy J2 Ranch in Patagonia, the home of San Raphael Valley Grass-Fed Beef.
Spencer is one of the main local growers working with The University of Arizona. All the burgers at the Cellar Bistro are made with Spencer's organic beef. "My animals are only eating Arizona grasslands," Spencer says.
It's a business relationship that gives her a market she wouldn't normally have. "Having the University of Arizona support us is very important and quite frankly I'm starting to market into the City of Tucson," Spencer says.
Even though going organic often means dishing out more cash, Levengood says it's worth it. "If you get something that's less of a carbon footprint and healthier for your body, I think people will recognize the benefits of that," Levengood says.
He hopes to work with even more local growers in the future.
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