Campus Kitchens and Greening Greeks:

Two noteworthy developments to share:
For starters, after literally years of back and forth, and planning, and safety obstacles, and student interest, the UVa chapter of the Campus Kitchens Project is officially up and running with its first delivery of food to the Charlottesville Salvation Army this past Sunday. The executive team will coordinate its large network of student volunteers to receive food deliveries, prep food in Runk, and deliver it to the Salvation Army in time for lunch every Sunday. Everyone involved in the lengthy approval process deserves major kudos for sticking it out and seeing this project finally get off the ground. Despite the difficulties implementing the program, the benefits - diverting more food waste from the landfill, connecting students with the underserved members of the Charlottesville community outside of the University bubble, establishing a philanthropic relationship between UVa Dining (and eventually other food service organizations) and deserving non-profits - obviously far outweigh the potential bureacratic drawbacks. I for one am excited to see Campus Kitchens become a well established link between UVa and Charlottesville!

In other, also waste diversion, news, the student group Greening Greeks has worked with me to set up a reusable to-go box pilot program at the Kappa Delta sorority house. Fraternities and sororities use catering companies to provide their houses with dinners on weeknights, and the caterers' general protocol for those that can't make it to the meal is to package food up for them in styrofoam containers. Even if there's just an average of a dozen absent sorority or fraternity members per meal, that's multiplied by the large number of sororities and fraternities at UVa -- and that starts adding up quickly. In an effort to combat that rampant waste, I introduced fifteen reusable to-go containers to KD on Monday. For the rest of this semester, KD's catering company will use those boxes to pack up leftovers, and rather than discarding them after a single use, the girls will simply stick the boxes in the house dishwasher and catering will use them again the next day. Hopefully this will be the start of a more significant trend within UVa's Greek community to reduce its environmental impact.


Lecture today

As part of the Rodman Scholars Lecture Series, I'm giving a talk today at 5pm in Jeff Hall on Personal versus Institutional Responsibility and what that means for sustainability. This will be the first in a series of lectures throughout the semester that are appropriately linked by the theme "Engineering a Sustainable World."

For more information, check out the Rodman Scholars' website: http://www.rodmanscholars.org/index.php/Engineering_a_Sustainable_World

Hope to see some of you there!


Slow Food Piedmont?

This past Saturday night I had the chance to get a look inside The Haven, Charlottesville's newly opened day shelter just off the Downtown Mall. Renovations were completed on the historic structure - a former church - mid-December; the place now offers a variety of services for the homeless and underserved in town, including laundry and shower facilities, counseling, and breakfasts made with fresh and local ingredients. The kitchen space is really something, with state of the art equipment and a spacious dining area that can seat up to about 80 people. The kitchen director hosted a potluck there over the weekend as a way to introduce some of us to the facilities, as well as to guage interest in the potential creation of a Slow Food: Albemarle/Piedmont chapter here in Central Virginia. All potluck attendees seemed plenty excited at the prospect of an organization centered around good food!

I am sure there will be opportunities for this emerging chapter to connect with the Slow Food: UVa unit that just got started up this fall. Though Slow Food sometimes receives criticism for being elitist in nature (the working class simply doesn't have the luxury of making sure that this or that heirloom tomato stays on the menu of a - probably expensive - restaurant), the organization exists most fundamentally to recreate the feeling of community that stems from gathering around a table and sharing a meal with your friends and neighbors. The Haven's kitchen looks to be emerging as an ideal gathering space for accomplishing that community building.


SYFAS 2010

I spent last weekend in Chapel Hill, NC attending an inspiring summit based around the challenges and rewards of creating sustainable food offerings and opportunities at college campuses throughout the Southeast. Students from around the region - Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, and even Florida - met at UNC for the Real Food Challenge Southeast Youth Food Activist Summit, a weekend of workshops and panels intended to arm students with the skills to return home and effect change on their own campus.

I helped lead one of the workshops, "Students Organizing for Real Food on Campus", in its morning and afternoon session, and was thrilled to hear about the efforts already underway elsewhere in the southeast. UNC has just opened a sustainably themed cafe; Davidson Dining has given its list of vendors to a group of students and charged them with finding suitably sustainable replacements; a student at Maryland has created her own sustainability internship with their Dining unit starting this semester; NC State has an on-campus weekly farmer's market; and the list goes on. We acknowledged that we are all a significant way off from seeing true sustainable food systems in our communities, but appreciated the chance to share best practices and to become well informed so we can better shape our respective colleges and universities.
Keynote speaker Anna Lappe put it well on Friday evening when she said that asking ourselves whether or not we were winning the battle against the conventional food system was not entirely the best question to pose; rather, we would do well to consider whether we are shaping history consciously. The group of passionate and motivated students at SYFAS 2010 are certainly doing so.


Vote for UVa's Reusable Mug Program

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is sponsoring Chill Out!, a video competition amongst colleges and universities from around the country. Students have been challenged to submit a video that explains what their campus is doing to combat global warming. Thanks to Laura Moynihan, my Sustainability Intern, Green Dining has entered its video about the reusable mug program underway on Grounds. Take two minutes to watch it here, and cast your vote for it on the GoGreen website by clicking on the "Vote Now!" hyperlink directly under the UVa video on this page: http://www.gogreentube.com/watch.php?v=MTA2MzcyOQ%3D%3D


Grass-Fed Beef at Newcomb Tomorrow

Come hungry to Newcomb for lunch (11am - 2pm) tomorrow; Wednesday, February 3rd! The dining hall is hosting a local burger station (where the nachos are usually located); the beef is provided by Grayson Natural Foods, which is a cattle cooperative composed of small family farms grown in and around Grayson County in Southwest Virginia. The cattle is free range and largely grass-fed -- those burgers are sure to be extremely tasty. While you're picking up your local burger, you may also want to check out the Green Dining display located at the far end of the table: new Sustainable Dining brochures, sustainable seafood pocket guides, reusable mug loyalty punch cards, and more.
See you there!