2010 Highlights

Farewell, 2010 - it's been great! Here are some quick highlights of the last twelve months:

-Expanded partnership with the Local Food Hub, culminating in the celebration of Virginia Farm to School Week (November)
-Launch of UVa Green Challenge with food featured as the first phase (August)
-Pilot Greek reusable to-go container program launched at KD (February)
-Farm to Fork dinner in celebration of Earth Day (April)
-Crossroads Fair Trade Tasting event (October)
-Creation of Dining's sustainable agriculture resource library (June)
-Newcomb's Make it a Local Lunch and Local Spirit themed meals (September)
-UVa Food Collaborative's public forum with Dining-hosted and sponsored reception (October)
-UVa compost expansion to Newcomb (March)
-UVa Dining and Housing receives E3 - Exemplary Environmental Excellence - award from the VA Department of Environmental Quality (October)
-Green Dining Open House (January)
-Grass Fed burgers for lunch at Newcomb (February)
-UVa Dining awarded 2010 Governor's Environmental Excellence Award for composting program (April)
-Completion of UVa-wide 2010 Sustainability Assessment (July)
-Local Food Hub Educational Farm tour (October)
-Mark Winne's lecture on food security and food justice (April)
-Launch of Meat Free Monday stations at all three residential dining halls (August)
-Successful wrap-up of the reusable to-go program's first year (May)
-Expanded (to include tea and soda) reusable mug punch card (January)
-Happy bEARTHday, Earth Day cupcakes destributed to students on Earth Day (April)
-Sustainability Day Fine Arts Cafe Reception featuring local producers (October)

Wow! Thanks to all involved for their hard work in making these events and accomplishments happen, and get ready for an even bigger and better 2011.


The UVa Food Collaborative's Local Food & Media Forum: Watch the follow up episode

Back in October, the UVa Food Collaborative, a new sustainability group for which I am on the steering committee, hosted its first major public event: a public forum on local food and the media. Food Collaborative founder Ben Cohen moderated a panel featuring accomplished representatives from different food and media perspectives: journalist Marian Burros of the New York Times; author and professor James McWilliams of, most recently, Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly; and farmer and food editor Tom Philpott of Grist.org. With sponsorship from UVa Dining, Meet The Farmer TV recorded the panel discussion as well as interviews with the participants afterwards. Show host Michael Clark brought the video to Grounds last week for a public screening of the episode followed by some dialogue about the issues raised by the panelists.

Watch the episode now!


Compost Collection

On Wednesday morning, Jess Wenger (with the UVa Office of Environmental Health & Safety, and oversee-er of UVa's composting program), Fred Leybag (undergrad student UVa Recycling employee) and I went out to Panorama Farms, the destination for Dining's organic food waste, to meet up with owner Steve Murray, check up on the progress of the composting process and to collect some samples for testing. It was windy but beautiful out there -- and the compost pile was nice and steamy. We should get the sample results back in a couple of weeks and will likely be good to move forward with the remainder of the process so that the compost can be completely turned into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.


The Season for Thanksgiving

At the end of an eventful harvest season and in the spirit of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I'd like to give thanks for the amazing food and passionate people that are moving us all towards a sustainable food system, locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Here are some snapshots of those people and the events taking place to promote change.

September 17, Make it a Local Lunch, Newcomb Dining Hall

October 5, Green Dining Local Food Hub Farm Tour, Educational Farm at Maple Hill

October 7, Fair Trade Month Sampling Event, Crossroads

October 7, "What's On Your Plate: A Public Forum on Local Food & The Media", Jefferson Scholars Foundation Center

October 10 - 13, AASHE Conference and Annual Aramark Sustainability Meeting, Denver, CO

October 21 - 25, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto, Turin, Italy

November 5, Slow Food Albemarle Piedmont Terra Madre Recap, Speak! Language Center

November 15, America Recycles Day, The Lawn

November 18, UVa Urban Planning Graduate Department's 100 Mile Thanksgiving, Westminster Church


Thanks to Flavor Magazine!

I wrote in a post a few months back that I was using some sustainable dining funds to start a modest sustainable agriculture-related library -- bookshelf, really. In addition to the original titles (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; The Politics of Food; The Omnivore's Dilemma; etc) I have added several volumes that I purchased at the recent AASHE (Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference, including Slow Money and Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks and Food Activists.

Along with those wonderful books, I have also been collecting back issues of both Flavor and Edible Blue Ridge, two area publications that promote local products, profile area producers, and celebrate the bounty of Central Virginia all year long. Edible Blue Ridge is part of a national network of magazines devoted to local and sustainable agriculture, known as Edible Communities, and its quarterly publications can be found for free at many area shops like Revolutionary Soup, Albemarle Baking Company, The Happy Cook, Integral Yoga Natural Foods, and more.
Similarly, Flavor, though an independent bi-monthly publication, is devoted to bringing farmers, producers, and their work to the forefront of our community's consciousness. Having been distributed free of cost for close to two and a half years, Flavor has made the decision to start charging a fee per issue so that it can be stocked in larger grocery stores, and so that ultimately its message can reach a broader audience. Flavor was kind enough to donate a year subscription of its magazine to UVa Dining, so we will be receiving six issues over the next year and adding them to the sustainable ag shelf!
Please feel free to stop by the Dining Admin Office and peruse the books and magazines -- magazines may be browsed at the office and books may be checked out.


Update on VA Farm to School Week

The 2nd Annual Virginia Farm to School Week is winding down but the dining halls on Grounds are still serving some local produce. Between the three residential dining rooms, you can find Gala, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonathan and Black Twig apples all from Central Virginia orchards: Dickie Brothers Orchard (Nelson County), Still House Creek Orchard (Batesville) and Henley's Orchard (Crozet), to be exact. How's that for variety?!

On Monday, one of the Dining Educators, Jasmine Drake, and I tabled at OHill to publicize both the Meat Free Monday station and Virginia Farm to School Week. The original plan was to tie the two events together, as Local Food Hub veggies were being ordered for the Meat Free Monday station's Grilled Vegetable Ciabatta. Since we are well into November, though, and the temperature has been steadily dropping, it didn't come as a huge surprise to discover Monday morning that a frost at the end of last week wiped out most of those very vegetables we were hoping to serve.
Instead of coming from the Food Hub, the sandwich's squash, green peppers and zucchini came from a supplier based in North Carolina, probably close enough to be considered part of our regional food system, and not a bad compromise. This naturally might begin to raise interesting questions about the nature of seasonality and the role it plays (or should, if any) in Dining's menu development. Of course, Dining is committed to providing a variety of dishes to students, and at least for now that means that we will continue to serve those foods beyond our ability to procure the ingredients locally. It is the Local Food Hub's hope that with a combination of season extensions (high tunnels, hoop houses, row cover), our community farmers will be able to provide that food all the way into late fall/early winter.

For now, we are still getting winter squashes, potatoes, and apples -- items that all store quite well and will be available as long as supplies last in the Local Food Hub warehouse. I advertised OHill's Grilled Vegetable Ciabatta as containing regionally sourced veggies, but was still able to publicize a stuffed acorn squash dish, roasted red potatoes and apples as all coming from more local, Central Virginia sources. And that was all just during lunch on Monday!

So the next time you eat at one of the dining halls, check out the labels for each dish. You may be surprised by the amount of local signage you see. And if you have any questions or feedback about sourcing, don't hesitate to speak with the dining room manager or executive chef -- you can often find them on the floor during meal time.


Help UVa Dining Celebrate VA Farm to School Week

Celebrate the 2nd Annual Virginia Farm To School Week, November 8-12, with several dishes offered at the OHill and Newcomb Meat Free Monday Station on Monday, November 8. At OHill, the lunchtime dish, a Grilled Veggie Ciabatta, will feature local squash, zucchini, and green peppers; while the Newcomb Meat Free Monday station will be host to Potato India (lunch) and Thai Tofu Curry (dinner), both featuring local green peppers and potatoes. All local items are sourced from from the Local Food Hub, (as you know) a nonprofit distribution organization that brings UVa Dining fresh local produce from within a 60 mile radius!

Virginia Farm to School Week is a program of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). As the VDACS website states, "Virginia schools currently spend more than $6 million annually on fresh produce. The Farm to School Program in Virginia will open the door for more of those dollars to stay within the state and support Virginia farmers by promoting opportunities for schools, distributors and growers to work together to increase the volume of locally grown product served in school cafeterias and dining halls. Incorporating local products into school meals also enhances the educational opportunity for students who benefit by learning about the seasonality of food products, the importance of supporting local agriculture and the benefits associated with reducing transportation cost and protecting farms and farmland in our communities." The first VA Farm to School Week, just last year, had participation from at least one school district in every region of the Commonwealth -- a great turnout and one that I'm sure we'll far outperform this year!

Lunch is served at OHill and Newcomb between 11am and 2pm, and dinner between 5 and 8pm. Come on out and give these dishes a try, while supporting Virginia's economy, agriculture and farmland, and student health all at the same time.


VEEP Award Ceremony

Dining and Housing have officially received their E3 designations and awards through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's VEEP (Virginia Environmental Excellence Program). Dining hosted an award ceremony and reception this afternoon over at the Runk Green Room, during which Amy Owens of the DEQ presented the awards (made of recycled content!) to Mark Doherty, Chief Housing Officer, and Brent Beringer, Director of Dining. In many ways, this is just the beginning of a long environmental sustainability road ahead of us, but it is always nice to revel in the successes every now and then. About forty people, including students, Housing and Dining staff, Business Operations administrators, and University administrators like Leonard Sandridge, came out to celebrate this wonderful achievement.

Don't forget to stop by the Fine Arts Cafe tomorrow afternoon between 4 and 6pm for some refreshments and the chance to meet your local producers!


Celebrate Sustainability Day With These Events

There is so much to report on from the last few weeks, but things keep flying forward and a proper update will have to wait. In the meantime, several upcoming events should pique your interest!

UVa Housing and Dining VEEP Award Ceremony. Monday, October 18th, 2pm, Runk Green Room. This joint ceremony will honor Housing and Dining's induction into the Exemplary Environmental Enterprise (E3) level of the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program (VEEP). The ceremony will be held next Monday, October 18th, at 2pm in the Green Room at Runk Dining Hall. A reception with refreshments provided by UVa Dining will immediately follow the ceremony.

UVa Food Collaborative Student Seminar Series. Monday, October 18th, 4-5:30pm, Newcomb Boardroom. Bart Elmore, PhD Candidate in the Department of History, presents "Turning Water into Pemberton's Wine of Coca: The Coca-Cola Company's Quest for Public Water Resources, 1886-2010."

Fine Arts Cafe Reception. Tuesday, October 19th, 4-6pm, Fine Arts Cafe. In honor of National Sustainability Day, stop by the FAC for some snacks and the chance to meet your local food producers.

FlashSem talk. Tuesday, October 19th, 5pm, Jeff Hall (Hotel C). I'll be giving a talk on the connections between UVa Dining's nutrition and sustainability programs. Sign up to attend here.

Stay tuned for pictures and accounts of last week's Fair Trade tasting event, the UVa Food Collaborative's successful panel on local food and the media, and the recent AASHE sustainability conference in Denver!


The Campus Kitchens Project at UVa

NBC 29 paid a visit to Runk Dining Hall this weekend to learn more about the great work that Campus Kitchens is doing here on Grounds and, more importantly, for the Charlottesville community. Students that volunteer with the CKP are not only working on important philanthropic issues; they are also forging bonds with a segment of the Charlottesville population that doesn't often connect with UVa. At the same time they are helping to eliminate food waste on Grounds and even learning about the food preparation and cooking process that happens inside UVa Dining kitchens. Check out the great story and accompanying video here: "Campus Kitchen Cooks For Cause at UVA" -- and then sign up to volunteer with them!


What’s On Your Plate: A Public Forum on Local Food and the Media next Thursday

The UVa Food Collaborative presents “What’s On Your Plate: A Public Forum on Local Food and the Media”, on Thursday, October 7th, from 4 to 6pm at the new LEED-certified Jefferson Scholars Foundation building at 112 Clarke Court, Charlottesville, VA. This free and open to the public panel will feature three of today's pre-eminent food writers and thinkers: Marian Burros, food columnist, New York Times; Tom Philpott, food editor, Grist.org; and James McWilliams, author, Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. The panel will be moderated by Benjamin Cohen, historian, agrarian studies scholar, and Food Collaborative coordinator. Be a part of the discussion on alternative agriculture and the media forces that are shaping our perceptions of the sustainable food movement. A locally sourced reception, highlighting produce from Charlottesville area farms, will immediately follow the forum.

An award-winning cookbook author and journalist, Marian Burros writes for a number of publications, including the Times, and is covering Michelle Obama's Childhood Obesity Initiative. Find some of her recent writing at http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/b/marian_burros/index.html.

Tom Philpott is the food editor for Seattle-based Grist.org, and the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Maverick Farms, a sustainable-agriculture nonprofit and small farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Find some of his recent writing at http://www.grist.org/people/Tom+Philpott.

James McWilliams is an associate professor of history at Texas State University and the author of four books. He has also written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Slate.com, and The Atlantic Monthly on-line. Find some of his recent writing at http://www.theatlantic.com/james-mcwilliams/.

The UTS Blue Route and Trolley route both stop directly in front of the building, and there are also a number of bike racks at Foundation Hall. These are the recommended access points for the event as parking is extremely limited at the Foundation building.

For directions to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation building, visit www.jeffersonscholars.org/contact-us/.
For CAT Trolley route and schedule, visit http://www.charlottesville.org/Index.aspx?page=2548.
For Central Grounds Garage information, visit http://www.virginia.edu/parking/facilities/central.html.
For other information, visit www.virginia.edu/foodcollaborative.

This event is graciously sponsored by U.Va. Dining; Feast!; Relay Foods; The International Residential College; Hereford Residential College, The Integrated Nitrogen Footprint Project; the U.Va. Vice Provost for Academic Programs; Adam Dean; and the U.Va. Departments of Politics; Urban & Environmental Planning; and Science, Technology & Society.


Local Food Hub Educational Farm Tour next Tuesday

Here's an exciting piece of news for all you UVa foodies -- or really, anyone that has an interest in learning more about our food system and agriculture in our community -- Green Dining is sponsoring a visit out to the Local Food Hub's Educational Farm At Maple Hill next Tuesday morning (October 5th). We'll tour the fields, check out the greenhouse, examine the equipment, meet the interns, learn about day to day operations from Farm Manager Steve Vargo, learn about the Hub's outreach efforts with Outreach Coordinator Emily Manley, and then get our hands dirty with a short (to-be-determined) farming project. We'll leave UVa right around 8am to get to the farm in time, and will be back on Grounds by noon. Email me at kendall.singleton@virginia.edu if you're interested. Space is limited, so let me know soon!


Response to Cavalier Daily Lead Editorial, Monday, September 20

Monday’s Cavalier Daily lead editorial focused on the growing importance of sourcing sustainable, particularly local, food in a large institutional setting – namely our Health System and our University overall. This lead editorial reflects a burgeoning interest in the sustainable food movement, which in and of itself is heartening to see: these issues are coming off the sidelines and into the mainstream student consciousness.

The article highlighted the recent partnership with area nonprofit the Local Food Hub and the University Health System, noting a new video launched on youtube and the Food Hub’s blog that describes that relationship in greater detail. The video is worth a watch, as it demonstrates the mutual benefits that come from the hospital sourcing local food and serving it to patients and visitors. These benefits include human health – customers eating fresher food tend to get more nutritional bang for the buck; environmental health – the small family farms with which the Food Hub partners grow their product in a sustainable fashion, shying away from pesticides and unnecessary antibiotics; and economic health – the farmers running these farms have an opportunity for increased market outlets by working under the umbrella of the Local Food Hub, thus making their operation more economically viable and ultimately maintaining rural land in agricultural use. The hospital is on the right track towards shaking the negative image of hospital food by buying local and supporting local farms in the process.

UVa Dining has also fully acknowledged these same benefits of purchasing sustainably produced food. In fact, sustainable purchasing has been on its agenda since the Green Dining group was initially formed in 2005, and took more concrete shape in 2007 after the group participated in a formative webinar on sustainable purchasing for higher education. This webinar, attended by students, Dining administrators, and community members, recommended that a University aiming to make sustainable purchasing part of its program first needed to create a set of sustainable purchasing priorities. Thus, the Green Dining Bull’s Eye was formed. U.Va. Dining’s highest sustainable purchasing priority is – and has been from the beginning – locally and seasonally grown, which Dining defines as grown within the Commonwealth. The remaining priorities are organically grown, humanely raised, and fairly traded.

Since those priorities were solidified three years ago UVa Dining and Green Dining have worked collaboratively to ensure that such purchasing is taking place and even increasing annually. Dining has forged partnerships with individual local operations like the Farm at Red Hill and Twin Oaks Tofu, and also, due to its size and the enormous number of students passing through its locations each day, larger distribution organizations like Cavalier Produce and the Local Food Hub. UVa Dining began conversations with the Food Hub just weeks after it first opened its doors last summer, and is currently purchasing approximately $3,000 worth of produce from them each week. Using the multiplier effect, it quickly becomes evident that Dining is having a significant effect on the Food Hub’s (and its partner producers’) operations. Executive Chef Bryan Kelly has confirmed that Dining is spending more with the Food Hub per week than any other vendor.

Aside from the day to day purchasing that is really just becoming the new standard for UVa Dining, we also host special events and special meals that specially showcase the bounty of ‘Virginia Grown’; examples include a Farm to Fork dinner last April on Earth day, featuring food sourced entirely from Relay Foods and the Local Food Hub, as well as a ‘Make it a Local Lunch’ theme station at Newcomb just last week, which again highlighted produce from the Food Hub.

There are certainly constraints on our sustainable purchasing program: seasonality not matching up to the academic schedule; distribution and logistical costs; demand far outpacing supply; and more, but UVa Dining is pleased with the progress it has made in just a few short years. With students expressing enthusiasm for more progress, we'll only improve from here.


More Local Food at Newcomb

'Tis the season... for fresh, sustainably produced food grown right here in Albemarle County! To celebrate the bounty, Newcomb is hosting another locally themed meal at lunch tomorrow from 11am to 2pm.

The produce is sourced from the Local Food Hub, a nonprofit focused on strengthening our local food supply by way of ensuring economic and environmental vitality for the area's small family farmers. The Food Hub itself works with close to 45 farmers, almost all of which are located less than 60 miles from Charlottesville. (The photo is of Ronnie Crickenburger, co-owner, with his wife, of Meadow Run Gardens in Fishersville, VA.)

The menu includes:

Sage & Apple Pork Loin
Fruited Demi Glace including cherries, currants, raisins and cranberry
Sautéed Smokehouse Pepper Green beans
Roasted Autumn Vegetables including Delicata, Butternut, Acorn, and Buttercup Squash with Yukon Potatoes
Warm Dinner Rolls with Wildflower Honey

Delicious! Hope to see you there.

(In case you'd like to pass this along, the event url is https://eventcal.itc.virginia.edu/eventcal/event/display?event_id=1284561085001.)


Local Spirit Tailgate tomorrow at Newcomb

Now that it's officially college football season and the height of the Virginia-grown harvest, come enjoy the best of both worlds at tomorrow's Local Spirit Tailgate for dinner at Newcomb between 5 and 8pm. The menu includes:

Chicken wings with spicy caramelized onion dipping sauce
Fried potato wedges with assorted toppings
Ravioli with a pancetta cream basic sauce
French bread pizza
Sauteed peaches and apples with vanilla ice cream and berry compote

Sounds perfect for a pre-game tailgate, and highlights some of the delicious produce currently available in central Virginia -- potatoes, peaches, apples, onions, and more!

Shot of local fruit display from last week's successful Taste of Dining event.

A reminder that tomorrow is also the first Green Dining meeting of the fall semester, taking place from 1-2pm in Hotel E (upstairs from the West Range Cafe). Please join if you're interested in getting involved with sustainable dining projects this year!


Taste of Dining tomorrow

Dining is holding its 2nd annual Taste of Dining event tomorrow -- you don't want to miss it! Taking place on the grassy lawn outside of O-Hill dining hall from 5-8pm, the event will feature signature dishes from every single dining location on Grounds (that includes concessions, catering, and the Law School cafe, among the ones that everyone is probably more used to visiting), along with live music and the chance to win some nifty prizes. There will also be an entire sustainability cluster, consisting of Green Dining, the UVa Student Garden, Campus Kitchens, Meat Free Monday and the UVa Green Challenge (a project sponsored by UVa Facilities Management). Come by, listen to some tunes, eat some food, and learn about UVa sustainability efforts and ways to get involved. Bring your own travel mug and/or water bottle if you remember!