Sustainable Food on Campus (part 1)

Addie's Cafe, Boston College

Food is one of the 7 critical issues bring discussed at the upcoming Rio+20 summit taking place this June in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. As the Rio+20 site states, “It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food,” and, in this two part blog, we will be looking at a range of ways that university campuses are doing just that throughout their operations.

Campuses are taking a closer look at the kinds of food that they offer in their dining facilities. This includes, but isn’t limited to, sourcing food locally, from within 100km, buying certified organic or fair trade, sustainable fish certification through the Marine Stewardship Council, adapting menus based on the availability of seasonal product and using free-range eggs.

A focus on local

Many are putting in place comprehensive policies around food sourcing. At Audencia Nantes School of Business, all coffee, teas and juices have been fair trade since 2005. The University of Calgary’s dining services purchase local and organic products as well as sustainably harvested seafood items and fair trade coffee and tea. Grenoble Ecole de Management has a number of initiatives that have been undertaken by staff and students to promote the integration of fair trade and organic products in the School’s vending machines and cafeterias.

Following external certifications

Several campuses have chosen not to do this alone but to also work with external organisations and groups that are working to make dining facilities more sustainable. The University of Gloucestershire is working towards the Soil Association Food for Life Partnership catering mark, an independent guarantee that what’s on the menu is freshly prepared, free from undesirable additives and better for animal welfare. The University of Winchester currently has this mark for its conference and hospitality menus. At the University of California, by 2020, 20 percent of the purchases made in the dining facilities and fast food franchises on all campuses will meet one or more of 16 sustainable food criteria set by the Real Food Challenge, a national activist network focused on steering American colleges and universities toward sustainability.

Minimising food waste

Campuses are also looking at how to minimise food waste. Many already provide composting facilities on campus as well as recycling in cafeterias and dining facilities. The University of California significantly reduced food waste by ditching dining trays, which they found led most diners to opt for less food per meal. At Richard Ivey School of Business, Styrofoam was eliminated from residence dining halls and replaced with bio-degradable and compostable take out containers. Discounts are also provided to customers who purchase hot beverages with a travel mug.

Student Led Initiatives

Many of these initiatives around food on campus are being driven by the students themselves in collaboration with staff and dining facilities. Students at Boston College started Real Food BC, an organisation that works to promote the purchasing of food from local, green, humane sources in order to support localised food production and reduce carbon emissions associated with long-distance food shipment. Members, in collaboration with dining services, created Addie’s Loft, an organic eatery on campus that offers food from local and sustainable sources.

For more on the Rio+20 theme of Food, read the Issue Brief prepared by UN-DESA and visit the Rio+20 site.

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