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Keeping Giants fed is a gargantuan task

ALBANY -- Some of the biggest consumers of local food this month, in both physical size and how much they eat, are members of the New York Giants during training camp at the University at Albany.

"When we order cucumbers, we don't need a few cases. We need 30 to 40 bushels," said Dennis Williams, executive chef of the university's dining services.

Williams supervises the three meals a day fed to a crowd that averages 180 people and can reach as many as 300 during the Giants' 19-day stay, which ends Wednesday. Besides the players, diners include coaches, trainers and other staff, and media people.

The typical adult requires 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day to maintain his or her weight, according to federal data. The National Strength and Conditioning Association estimates a professional football player during heavy training needs 50 calories per kilogram (2.2 pounds). That means the smallest Giant, 175-pound cornerback Brandon Bing, should eat 4,000 calories a day. The biggest, 350-pound defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, needs twice that.

A significant portion of the produce, dairy and meat the team eats at camp comes from local and regional sources. Signs throughout the dining facility, at Indian Quad on the university's uptown campus, identify the names and locations of farms that supply the products.

Last week, potatoes were from New Bedford, Mass. Milk came from Binghamton. Local vegetables, grass-fed beef and a whole hog used in a pig roast were supplied by Purdy & Sons Foods in Sherburne, about 30 miles west of Cooperstown.

"The players eat a lot, but they eat very healthy, especially compared to our students," said Alisa Mathis-Peterson, a senior operations director for the dining service who works with Williams to provide training camp meals.

Players relish grilled chicken, fish, Mexican dishes, dim sum, fresh fruit smoothies and made-to-order stir-fry with local meats and vegetables, Mathis-Peterson and Williams said.

"It is better than the hotel food when we go away," said Will Beatty, a 319-pound offensive tackle. "I like the variety. They always have something different."

Tight end Bear Pascoe favors the fresh vegetables, fruits and meats on the daily menu but noted "there's a lot of sweets to satisfy the sweet tooth."

Sourcing from a variety of local farms and other producers presents logistical challenges, Williams said.

"I'm not just jumping on a computer and ordering it all at once," he said. "You've got to find the farmers, find out who has what, give them time to get it picked and delivered to you. Once you've got it down, once you're on a schedule, it works out fine, and you can really tell a difference with the freshness of the vegetables. Our salad bar's vegetables really stand out. I think that's why they like it so much."

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