Waste Management: Aramark-wide Efforts

Waste audits can be a popular -- and eye-opening -- way of finding out where there's room for improvement in an organization's waste management program.  UVa Dining has experienced this first hand by working with a number of student groups and projects to host post-consumer food waste audits this fall, as well as in past semesters.

The Newcomb group shares their waste audit experiences during their final class presentation

Each dining room, plus the Fine Arts Cafe retail space, all hosted one waste audit over the course of the fall, and each audit served as a way of raising awareness about individuals' roles in contributing to a sizeable overall waste stream.  One takeaway that students noted in their final presentations this morning was the opporunity for stressing reusable to-go containers versus the default disposable container.  That's a great individual action which students can take that will add up to major reductions in waste.

Two of the groups created videos to accompany their final presentations.  Check them out!  

Runk waste audit video
Fine Arts Cafe audit video

Aramark as a whole has made waste management a top priority in its sustainability programming over the last few years, so we here at UVa are falling in line with what our counterparts around the country are also doing.  One great example of that is at Monterey Bay Aquarium (the name may sound familiar: we try to purchase our seafood according to the renowned Monterey Bay sustainable seafood guidelines!), for which Aramark provides the food and catering.  Michael Seaman is their recently hired Environmental & Purchasing Manager, and part of his job includes tracking the trash and looking at ways to divert more of it into recycling channels.  For the full story, check out the Monterey Herald article about his position.  It's pretty exciting to see environmental sustainability steadily becoming more established within the corporate world -- I'm sure there's lots more innovation to come! 

With a rise in the number of full time positions devoted to conservation, Aramark will be able to make even more significant headway towards minimizing its overall environmental footprint.


Food Trends of 2012

It seems that the USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative was a couple of years ahead of its time.  "Supermarket guru" Phil Lempert has just released his annual predictions of food trends in the coming year and coming it at number 4 is his sustainability related forecast: Increased Emphasis on the 'Farm to Fork' journey.  He clarifies that the face of this movement is increasingly going to be the farmer - rather than the chef - and, in particular, the emerging next generation of young farmers that are already social media savvy and well connected in their communities.  Coming on the heels of what seems like a steady stream of tainted food stories, it's no wonder that the public is looking for food security via transparancy, and they're finding it directly through their community farmers.  I certainly hope that this is more than a trend, though!

Take a look at the complete list of food trends here.  What do you think Phil missed?


VA Food Security Summit

The second Virginia Food Security Summit was a success!  In total, over three hundred people from across the state came to Charlottesville for the Monday evening roundtable and Tuesday all day workshop and flash presentations.  Events like this always do a great job of re-energizing attendees in their continued efforts to increase availability and access of local food to Virginians, and the Summit was no exception.

Attendees gather at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation Hall on Monday evening for a 'crystal ball' roundtable event on the state and future of food security in Virginia.

USDA's Kathleen Merrigan gives her inspiring remarks.

Tanya Denckla Cobb moderates the roundtable with some big names in the sustainable food and ag realm (Fred Kirschenmann, Ken Meter, etc)

The Catering set-up for the post-roundtable reception

Virginia oysters

The reception menu - I heard great things about the delicata squash and pear soup!

All the sponsors who made this event possible (including UVa Dining)

The breakfast spread

Tanya kicks things off with an overview of what the VA Food System Council hopes to accomplish at the Summit (namely, getting input on their recently drafted Virginia Farm-to-Table plan so that they can officially present it to the folks in Richmond)

Attendees self-identifying as producers/distributors/eaters/etc

Discussing regulatory barriers to local meat processing in one of our breakout sessions

The Virginia Farm-to-Table plan

Breaking for lunch

Spencer Neale represents the Farm Bureau at the post-lunch panel
Thanks to the conference organizers and to everyone that came out and added such enthusiasm to the entire experience!  I'm excited to see the Virginia Farm-to-Table plan making its journey from draft to implementation.

Also a shout out goes to Bernice O'Brien, who was our student scholarship recipient and attended the Monday evening and Tuesday summit in its entirety.  I can't wait to hear her thoughts on the take aways from the event, and how we can continue to make progress in local food procurement here on Grounds.  Stay tuned for details about our first Green Dining meeting of the spring semester where you'll catch a more detailed and introspective recap!


Healthy Bites: The Recap

I hope some of you readers were able to stop by a dining hall yesterday evening for a tasty bite of breakfast at dinner!

To whet your appetite for future events, check out the pictures:

First stop, Runk.

It might be stretching things to call these 'healthy', exactly, but the Carter Mountain apple cider donuts were sure scrumptious!

Local baked apple with a struesel crumble topping, and granola encrusted french toast in the background.  I tried a baked apple topped with yogurt (Chef Brett mixed in frozen Local Food Hub black raspberries with plain yogurt), dried cranberries, and local honey -- needless to say, I had to hold myself back from licking my plate clean.

A jar of the Hungry Hill Farm honey (from Shipman, VA) that Runk procured via the Local Food Hub for last night's dishes.

Did you know that items are identified as organic at the Runk salad bar by being placed in white (rather than black) bins?

Next up was Newcomb.

I hope it was obvious that the apples were local here...!

Setting out the apple dish.

It's fun to see how each chef has his own take on these special menu items.

And we rounded things out with a stop in at O'Hill.

Setting the scene.

O'Hill chose to set everything (baked apples, french toast, egg-white omelet) out together in one sampler platter.  That way you could try out everything in healthy portions!

As usual, the apples were local here, plus some of the ingredients in the omelet, including arugula and shitake mushrooms.

Great job to all of our chefs!  Stay tuned for more events to come.


Healthy (and Sustainable) Bites Bar Tomorrow

Stop by your nearest dining room at dinnertime for a taste of healthy and sustainable "Breakfast for Dinner"!  Serving Baked Apples, Egg-White Omelet, Veggie Frittata, and Granola alongside your usual dinner staples. 

As we did with the last Healthy Bites Bar, local food is being incorporated where possible.  Here's a breakdown of what to expect:

  • Apples (Baked Apple dish)
  • Granny and York apples (Baked Apple dish)
  • Black raspberries (frozen at the height of the season, and thawed into fat free yogurt) and Mountain Laurel honey (Granola Crusted French Toast)
  • Arugula (Egg-White Omelet)
  • Arugula, broccoli, and mushroom (Veggie Frittata)
  • Apples (Baked Apple dish)
  • Tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and riddiccio (Egg-White Omelet)
In addition to the local fare, all of the eggs used in these dishes are cage-free, thus hitting the Humane standard on our Green Dining sustainability bull's eye.  Hope you enjoy!


Local Food Fair and Farm to School Week in Review

If you weren't able to make it to Dining's Healthy Bites/Farm to School celebration (at Runk, Newcomb, and O'Hill) or the Fine Arts Cafe Local Foods Fair last Wednesday evening, here are some pictures to recap the events:

The Farm at Red Hill's salsa sampling set up at the Fine Arts Cafe (photo by Dan Addison)
Students sampling the goods at the FAC (photo by Dan Addison)

Lots of people were stopping by the FAC!

And chatting with our vendors - here, Lisa from the Local Food Hub speaks with a student about the local apples and apple cider that they source from area farms

Lisa prepares more apple samples

Students from the Global Sustainability class organized this Food Show

Did you know that the Fine Arts Cafe now stocks single serving sized Farm at Red Hill hummus containers? 

The student organizers put together a display about the merits of local food

Twin Oaks had an info table with delicious samples, and a display featuring the basic tofu ingredients: water and (US-grown) soybeans

Twin Oaks display

The Healthy Bites/Farm to School Week crudites bar at Newcomb

Local green beans, green peppers, apples, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and apple cider

The cider was a big hit
Don't forget, whenever you attend events like this, be sure to share your feedback with me or dining@virginia.edu.  Hearing positive comments after the fact really helps to reinforce our commitment to sustainability!


Virginia Food Security Summit Scholarship Available - Apply Now!

Have you heard about the upcoming Virginia Food Security Summit taking place here on Grounds on December 5th and 6th?  It's going to be a gathering of minds from around the Commonwealth, with everyone coming together to actively seek out opportunities to successfully institutionalize sustainable food and to create a Virginia farm to table five-year plan.

See the complete agenda here: Summit Agenda.

If this is making you feel inspired, you're in luck.  UVa Dining is offering one Summit scholarship to a student that fills out a very brief application form.  If we get a great deal of interest, we may be able to offer additional scholarships, so don't hesitate to apply if you're available on those days.

Applications are due at midnight on Sunday, November 27.  Apply today!


Fine Arts Cafe's Local Food Fair

If you're looking for an appetizer to preceed your dinner featuring local foods tomorrow, you should wander over to the Fine Arts Cafe and explore the Local Food Show taking place between 4 and 6pm.  Students from the Global Sustainability course are hosting this event in conjunction with Dining, and it should be an excellent opportunity for some quality face time with the farmers that bring us the local food items found on Grounds.  Representatives from the Farm at Red Hill, Twin Oaks, and the Local Food Hub will be on hand to talk about the food they produce and how the journey it takes to arrive on students' plates. 

For a further enticement, note that the Fine Arts Cafe perennial favorite, the quesadilla (with Farm at Red Hill salsa), will be available for $1 off during the event!  Hope to see you there.


Celebrate Virginia Farm to School Week

Virginia is celebrating Farm to School Week again this year, starting today: November 7 - 11.  U.Va. Dining is joining in the programming with a Healthy Crudites Bar this Wednesday evening (November 9, 5-8pm) at all three dining halls, featuring some scrumptious local items from the Local Food Hub.

 Here are the offerings, by dining location:

  • Broccoli, Green Beans and Green Peppers from Critzer Family Farm in Afton, VA
  • Cauliflower from Singing Earth Produce in Waynesboro, VA
  • D'Anjou Pears from Fresh Pearspective Farm in Union, WV
  • Apples from Crown Orchard in Covesville, VA, and from Dickie Bros. Orchard in Roseland, VA
  • Broccoli, Green Beans, Green Peppers, and Celery from Critzer Family Farm in Afton, VA
  • Cauliflower from Singing Earth Produce in Waynesboro, VA
  • Apples from Crown Orchard in Covesville, VA, and from Dickie Bros. Orchard in Roseland, VA
  • Apple Cider from Morris Orchard in Amherst, VA
  • Broccoli, Green Beans, and Green Peppers from Critzer Family Farm in Afton, VA
  • Cauliflower from Singing Earth Produce in Waynesboro, VA
  • Apples from Crown Orchard in Covesville, VA, and from Dickie Bros. Orchard in Roseland, VA
  • Apple Cider from Morris Orchard in Amherst, VA

The Farm to School Week menu items at O'Hill last year

Tabling for VA Farm to School Week 2010

Stop by a dining hall at dinner on Wednesday and taste the difference for yourself.  Happy Farm to School Week!


Behind the scenes at O'Hill

A first year seminar class took a field trip to O'Hill earlier this week and got an up close look at the back of the house in all its non-stop busy-ness.  This was a really fun opportunity to show students the dishroom, the pulping machine, and what actually happens to all of their food waste.  Students also learned about Campus Kitchens, our partnership with the Local Food Hub, the calculations that the staff makes to order just the right amount of food, and  how they can play a role in making Dining Services more sustainable (sign up for the reusable to-go container program; bring their own reusable mug to cafes around Grounds - and get a discount for it!; submit feedback, good or bad, via Text 'n Tell or in person to one of the managers or cooks in the dining halls).

We had a great afternoon with the group.  Thanks to Politics Professor Paul Freedman for organizing this event!

O'Hill Manager Keith Kelleher explains how the pulping equipment works

Keith shows off O'Hill's more energy efficient hood controls


Campus Sustainability Day: Today

Happy Campus Sustainability Day!  To celebrate, UVa Dining is featuring dishes in its dining halls that can be deemed a "Green Menu Item".  At lunch, students enjoyed dishes like eggplant parmesan (Newcomb), corn chowder soup (O'Hill), and chicken caesar salad with local Romaine lettuce (Runk).  Green your menu at dinner this evening and continue the celebration!

Corn chowder at O'Hill

O'Hill salad bar - green every day!


UVa Sustainability Dialogue

Thanks to everyone that came out for yesterday's Sustainability Dialogue at the Kaleidoscope Room!  Paxton Marshall, Cheryl Gomez, Andrew Greene, and I all spoke about various facets of sustainability across the university and how we're tackling the UVa directive to reduce CO2 emissions by 25% of 2009 levels by 2025.

It was an informative session, with some lively discussion afterwards.  To learn more about the event and the carbon commitment, take a look at this NBC29 coverage:

Video about UVa Sustainability Dialogue


Reflecting on AASHE 2011

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, or AASHE, held its annual conference last month at the green (and LEED Gold certified) David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.  This year’s theme was “Creating Sustainable Campuses and Communities”, and, appropriately, many of the workshops centered around place-based education and ways for campuses and their surrounding communities to successfully collaborate.
Scenic Pittsburgh view from the convention center balcony

UVa was well represented at the conference, with six staff members, two faculty members, and five students attending (and most of us carpooling!), and a number of us presenting posters or giving presentations. I gave a presentation entitled “Fostering a Local Food Procurement System: UVa Dining’s Relationship with the Local Food Hub”, which went well and seemed to elicit a significant amount of interest from attendees. In fact, that appeared to be the case with all food-related presentations and dialogues, and reinforces what is obviously a growing trend among college and university campuses: institutions want to play a role in ensuring food security and food sustainability.
Here is a sampling of food projects that various schools and organizations shared at the conference:

• University of Florida is eradicating 100% of its Styrofoam on campus, including at national brand retail locations like Chik-fil-A
• Arizona State University has established a thriving, 27-vendor farmers market on its campus every other Tuesday throughout the academic year
• Yale is reinventing its salad bar by removing processed meats and replacing with fresh produce; also by removing all processed salad dressings and replacing with high-end olive oils and house-made dressings
• The EPA has just launched its Food Waste Recovery program, to encourage schools to reduce food waste along all tiers of the food waste recovery hierarchy
• Randolph College is designing an edible urban landscape for the green spaces on its campus
• The Marine Stewardship Council provides a 3rd party sustainability certification to wild stocks of fish around the world, and in turn colleges and universities can buy this MSC-certified fish as a way of increasing their percentage of sustainable food purchases
• Emory created a part-time Farmer Liaison position to seek out partnerships with Georgia farmers between 2007 and 2009, and has also published an Eating Sustainably booklet on its website with such sub-topics as “Health Benefits & Sustainable Eating” and “Sustainable Food and the Georgia Economy”
• Students at the University of Western Michigan are in the process of launching a student-run cooperate cafĂ© on campus, called The Campus Beet

All of these discrete projects illustrate the growing momentum on campuses around the country to be part of the shift in the way that our food is grown, processed, distributed, and consumed. The variety of presentations given is particularly indicative of the great depth and breadth of this food movement: people are approaching the journey towards food and agriculture sustainability from public health, social justice, climate change, and even cultural and heritage perspectives. Food is, of course, deeply personal, and means something to everyone. It makes sense, then, that due to everyone’s vested interest in “eating as an agricultural act”, colleges and universities would rise up to pioneer sustainability innovations in this sector.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, one of the conference’s keynote speakers, eloquently summed up higher education’s responsibilities where sustainability was concerned, when she told the crowd that we couldn’t let people be lulled into a sense of complacency by dutifully taking out their recycling, or other relatively superficial activities. Instead, it is time for institutions – and the people working, teaching, or being educated at them – to step up and do something heroic.

How can Virginia institutions step up?