After the film, Dining hosted a reception in the theater lobby and several groups graciously agreed to table the event - thanks to the UVA Community Garden, Slow Food UVA, the Student Council Sustainability Committee, the Nourish(meant) Project, and The Local Food Hub for joining Green Dining in sharing information about the alternatives to our currently petroleum dependent, corn-based, socially unjust, and consumer-disconnected food system.
At the reception, I asked students to write down their suggestions for ways that Dining can change in order to move away from that system, and I got some good ideas. Their suggestions are listed below, with my comments in green:
- Continue advertising the reusable to-go container program and/or make it mandatory - I think going mandatory is a great idea, and will almost certainly happen at some point, especially if there is strong student support.
- Promote vegetarian and vegan options in the dining halls - Food, Inc spends a lot of film time focusing on the problems with today's meat industry, and rightly so. There have been many conversations about a "Meatless Monday" - or something similar - in the dining halls, and I participated in a great webinar yesterday afternoon prior to the film screening that focused a great deal on Johns Hopkins' success with educating students about the environmental impact of consuming meat, as well as making their veggie/vegan options tastier and more appealing.
- Organize a panel discussion re: Green Dining and inform students about the current obstacles to sourcing locally - Great idea.
- Expand composting to all dining halls - All of the current UVA Dining waste at Panorama has been tested and confirmed that it is safe. The first batch of Panorama PayDirt that includes our organic waste was just sold (!) and we're moving forward with the DEQ to start composting at Runk next.
- Work with The Local Food Hub - Local Food Hub director Kate Collier and purchasing & operations manager Alan Moore will be sitting down with Bryan Kelly and myself right before or after Thanksgiving to discuss current roadblocks in our attempts to partner with each other, and how to solve those issues so that Local Food Hub food can make more regular appearances on Grounds.
- Increase amount of local food served in dining halls - Ongoing... Check out the Dining section of the UVa Sustainability webpage for greater details about our current local purchasing relationships and the other four components of our sustainable purchasing guidelines (seasonal, organic, humanely raised, and fairly traded): UVa Sustainability: Dining.
- Take a Polyface farm tour - Dining probably won't organize an official trip to Polyface, since we don't purchase from Joel Salatin, but it is likely that we will organize a trip up to Wolf Creek Farm (in gorgeous Madison County), our current source of local and sustainably raised beef.
- Donate unused portions of food to local organizations that can serve it - The Campus Kitchens Project is ironing out the final details so they can begin taking those unused portions and delivering them to the Charlottesville Salvation Army and other similar organizations.
- Reduce plastic wrap use - I assume this was in reference to the Catering items that were wrapped in plastic for the post-film reception. Some plastic is necessary to avoid attracting flies, etc, as well as to convey to random passersby that the food is not available to them, but I agree that wrapping a tray three times over is on the excessive side (not to mention difficult to unwrap).
- Campaign to reduce food waste - The two food waste audits conducted in the dining halls have both done a great job of putting this issue on students' radars, but I'm sure that re-evaluation is needed on the kitchen preparation side as well.
- Hold cooking classes featuring organic and seasonal ingredients - Great idea!
- Discourage Catering employees from discarding reusable items (plates, cups, etc) after events - I will take a look at the current policies.
- Educate Aramark employees about food waste and the environmental arguments for purchasing organic and local items - Proper food portioning is always good to keep in mind. Jim Bleakley (HR Manager at UVa Dining) and I are working together to start an incentive program to make conservation efforts as routine a part of the work shift as safety currently is.
Further suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).