120,000 Pounds of Local Tomatoes Make Beautiful Marinara at Harvard

Date of Press Release: 

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 1:15pm


Crista Martin


Director for Strategic Initiatives & Communication




Cambridge, MA – 120,000 pounds of Massachusetts-grown tomatoes, in the form of 14,000 gallons of marinara sauce, are now delectably dressing dishes on Harvard plates. Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) partnered with local food entrepreneur Karl Dias this summer to develop a custom marinara sauce recipe that reduced sugar, sodium and other preservatives while making the most of a seasonal crop for year-round enjoyment.

This summer's tomato harvest was huge, and Dias collected fruits from six area farms to turn them into HUDS' custom batch of sauce. The recipe was originally intended to use "dropped" tomatoes, or fruits that are otherwise less sale-able due to blemishes. But with the overwhelming yield this season, Dias primarily had top grade tomatoes to work with, as farmers couldn't sell them fast enough.

For HUDS, this project represented an opportunity to further support the local food economy. "We buy an enormous amount of locally grown, caught or made food," says David Davidson, Managing Director for HUDS. "But the bulk of New England's growing season is when school is out. So we wanted to find a creative way to further utilize local produce in a way we can enjoy all school year long."

HUDS met Dias when he joined a Massachusetts Farm to School Project meeting coordinated by Simca Horwitz. There, several schools agreed to a trial of a sauce made from gleaned tomatoes. The trial proved so successful that HUDS moved forward with a recipe that represents one year's worth of sauce, which will be served to undergraduates.

Each gallon of sauce has 8.6 pounds of tomatoes in it, all of which came from six area farms:

  • Wards Berry Farm, Sharon, MA

  • Harvest Farm of Whately, Deerfield, MA

  • Davidian Brothers Farm, Northboro, MA

  • Warner Farm, Sunderland, MA

  • Long Plain Farm, Whately, MA

  • The Bars Farm, Deerfield, MA


"It's really important to find creative solutions to the sustainable food challenge," says Davidson. "This sauce is a great example of thinking out of the box to expand local purchasing. When you serve as many meals as we do, you have a real opportunity to support the vital local agriculture economy."

Harvard University Dining Services operates 13 residential dining halls, 15 campus retail cafes, a kosher kitchen and complete catering services.  The country’s oldest collegiate foodservice operation, HUDS serves approximately 5 million meals a year.