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Thanks to drought, campus food prices may see increase

Staff writer

Published: Monday, August 27, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 21:08

Indiana weather is sometimes unpredictable, but 2012 has been one of the most unpredictable in history. With 80-degree temperatures in March and record breaking heat during summer months, it is no surprise that a severe drought followed.

There are worries among students and the dining services that campus food prices may soon be going up. With an already-strapped economy, higher prices anywhere are a cause for concern.

With March temperatures so warm, crops became confused and foliage started to sprout earlier than expected. Once the cold front returned the crops were severely damaged. If these conditions did not pose enough of a problem for Indiana farmers and their crops, the severe drought definitely did.

“There are two things that went on, not just the drought but there was also the spring that we had. We went from winter temperatures to 80 degree weather,” said Ziggy Pairitz, director of dining services at IU South Bend.

“I’ve heard that we have lost 80 to 90 percent of our apple crop, coupled with that the drought that we had mid-summer obviously affects the corn. We can see we are in for a bumpy road,” he added.

The Agriculture Department recently reduced its corn harvest projection by 13 percent, bringing expected output to a six-year low and causing speculation that food prices will steepen.

“That’s an honest fear for everybody right now. I am working very hard with my suppliers to do our best to maintain prices where they are at so that we don’t have a price hike,” said Pairitz.

With the price of corn, wheat, soy and fuel beginning to rise, it is likely to hit the pockets of IUSB students at some point. Pairitz and the dining services seem to be making a proactive stance in dealing with the issue by supporting local farmers and partnering with Shelton Farms.

“It’s part of sustainability to support local farmers. Our food shouldn’t travel farther than I have to get to the same location,” said Pairitz.

Pairitz, although worried, seemed to have an aura of confidence when speaking about the measures he was putting in place to hopefully prevent anymore increases in costs for students. Fingers crossed for now that buffalo chicken wraps and cheeseburgers don’t go gourmet.

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