Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 72.32
Liaison Merry Rankin
Submission Date Aug. 29, 2022

STARS v2.2

Iowa State University
OP-8: Sustainable Dining

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Karen Rodekamp
Food Stores Manager
ISU Dining
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host a farmers market, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery program, or urban agriculture project, or support such a program in the local community?:

A brief description of the farmers market, CSA or urban agriculture project:

The University hosts a Local Food Festival: An Adventure in Eating in September. The event features educational displays, samples, recipes using local foods developed by ISU Dining chefs, locally grown and produced products for sale by local producers and ISU clubs, free bike tune-ups and reuseable shopping bags.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host a sustainability-themed food outlet on-site, either independently or in partnership with a contractor or retailer?:

A brief description of the sustainability-themed food outlet:

ZEST is a food venue in Friley Windows that provides solely vegan/vegetarian options, often using tofu from a local business named Old Capitol Foods.. At all other dining establishments, vegan and vegetarian options are provided in every menu during every meal period. Additionally, the Poco Picante venue in the Memorial Union features pork from The Maschhoffs Family Farms, a company committed to the sustainable production of pigs. There is educational signage in the venue which communicates to customers they are eating a protein that is locally sourced and produced with sustainable practices.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor support disadvantaged businesses, social enterprises, and/or local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through its food and beverage purchasing?:

A brief description of the support for disadvantaged businesses, social enterprises, and/or local SMEs:

Contracts with a number of businesses representative of this sourcing, including commodities of milk, pizza, ice cream, BBQ sauce, tortillas, meat and vegetables.

Estimated percentage of total food and beverage expenditures on products from disadvantaged businesses, social enterprises, and/or local SMEs:

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host low impact dining events or promote plant-forward options?:

A brief description of the low impact dining events and/or plant-forward options:

ISU Dining provides several vegan/vegetarian options to every member of the campus on a daily basis.

ZEST is a food venue in Friley Windows that provides solely vegan/vegetarian options. At all other dining establishments, vegan and vegetarian options are provided in every menu during every meal period. As a team, providing vegan and vegetarian options are built into the menu creation policy, setting expectations for these options to be available at any location, at any time of the day.

At Conversations Dining, several vegan/vegetarian options are featured. This location specializes in a vegan/vegetarian made-to-order sandwich station. Vegan spreads, cheeses, and toppings are available for customizable sandwiches, which can be toasted via a panini press.

Furthermore, all of the ISU Dining locations offer other “create your own” menu items, which allows students to customize their food to their needs. There are different customizable items such as deli sandwiches, salad bars, rice bowls, and pasta bars that will allow students to have vegan and vegetarian options. The culinary team strives to feature plant-based proteins on all menus, ensuring that all locations are able to accommodate vegan and vegetarian students. Furthermore, daily online menus help students identify all their options that better accommodate their needs. Online menus are labeled with vegan and vegetarian symbols to help students easily identify and filter those items when deciding where and what to eat. Ingredients and attributes are labeled at the point of sale for all menu items served at the dining locations to allow and encourage students to make food choices based on their own preferences.

ISU Dining supplies colored handled utensils for quick identification of vegan/vegetarian dishes. These utensils provide communication to staff and other guests to not cross-mingle utensils.

The Iowa County Fare: A Celebration of Local Foods was held October 22-25, 2018.

This event was designed to showcase local products and the sustainable impact in purchasing local and supporting local producers. The event included several local producers including:
ISU Horticulture Farm Apples
Maschoff Family Farms Pork
Deardorff Sweet Corn
A variety of vegetables from FarmTable
Beef from Iowa's Best Beef
Old Capitol Foods Tofu and Mayu
Lewright’s Meats Ground Ham
Salama Greenhouse & Floral Tomatoes
Dolan Farms Chicken
Al Lopata Farms Pumpkins
Deal’s Orchard Apples and Cider

ISU Dining also hosts composting information, displays and hands-on learning opportunities showcasing lower impact related to food waste.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a vegan dining program that makes diverse, complete-protein vegan options available to every member of the campus community at every meal?:

A brief description of the vegan dining program:

Online menus are labeled with vegan and vegetarian symbols to help students easily find those items. Many locations offer create-your-own menu items such as deli sandwiches and salad bars that can also be used by vegan and vegetarian students. Though all locations can accommodate vegan and vegetarian students, a specific vegan/vegetarian station called “Zest” is available in Friley Windows dining center and at Conversations Dining, several vegan/vegetarian options are featured.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor inform customers about low impact food choices and sustainability practices through labelling and signage in dining halls?:

A brief description of the sustainability labelling and signage in dining halls:

Labeling and signage informing customers about low impact choices and sustainability practices are found throughout campus dining facilities across campus. Targeted messaging include local purchasing, vegan and vegetarian, cultural and religious options and events and food insecurity.

Educational signage is near the service location of local menu items/ingredients, letting the customer know the grower/producer and where the food item came from.

ISU Dining informs its customers about their composting and recycling practices with signage and digital messaging in multiple dining locations.

There are also several signs about programs like “Give A Swipe” (meal sharing) to encourage customers to participate in programs that promote sustainable practices.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor participate in a competition or commitment program and/or use a food waste prevention system to track and improve its food management practices?:

A brief description of the food recovery competition or commitment program or food waste prevention system:

ISU Dining tracks food wasted through donation, spoilage, and loss within our CBORD Menu Management system. All team members are responsible for tracking food waste and its cause, then inputting the product, waste volume and reason into the Menu Management system. Monthly reports are created and reviewed by senior management. When food waste trends upwards, teams are asked for further communication and corrective action.

Has the institution or its primary dining services contractor implemented trayless dining (in which trays are removed from or not available in dining halls) and/or modified menus/portions to reduce post-consumer food waste?:

A brief description of the trayless dining or modified menu/portion program:

All ISU Dining all-you-care-to-dine locations have been trayless since 2008, which led to reducing food waste by 2,000lb weekly.

ISU Dining is systematically reviewing the service portion of all menu items to ensure sizing is suitable for the type of service. Moving forward, dishes and desserts which are cut into individual servings prior to meals, will be smaller in size. Protein and pizza slice sizing is also being reviewed, along with utensil sizes for service of buffet meal items.

To further decrease food waste other initiatives including reduction of plate circumference and displaying food in half instead of full portions are being piloted and analyzed.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor donate food that would otherwise go to waste to feed people?:

A brief description of the food donation program:

ISU Dining partners with Food at First (FAF), a local organization that feeds daily meals and hosts a free market for those in need. Products from the retail locations are donated and sent to the organization along with other products such as breads, bagels, and more.

Food at First volunteers collect food that has been set aside to be donated 2-3 times per week and supplied with collapsible crates for gathering and transporting food. An ISU Dining Senior staff member meets with the organization two times per year to review the partnership and its successes/challenges.
ISU Catering also provides leftover food products to Food at First. Metal pans are provided by FAF and the Catering staff transfer usable food product into FAF pans, chill, and hold for next day pick up, along with baked goods.

As a donation provider to Food at First, an ISU Dining team member serves as a board member to this organization. This is a volunteer position which provides insight and support as the organization needs.

ISU Dining supports The SHOP (Students Helping Our Peers), a food pantry run by students, for students. The SHOP’s purpose is to serve the student population by increasing hunger awareness and decreasing food insecurity among college students. ISU Dining provides help through purchasing assistance and donating a variety of food products when it becomes available.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor divert food materials from the landfill, incinerator or sewer for animal feed or industrial uses?:

A brief description of the food materials diversion program:

ISU Dining contracts with Restaurant Technologies (a company that helps organizations handle oil waste and picks up all fryer grease) to reduce their carbon footprint by recycling cooking oil and using it in the production of biofuels.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a pre-consumer composting program?:

A brief description of the pre-consumer composting program:

In three of the largest dining centers, there are collection bins for all the food waste that might occur while preparing meals. Cooks, student employees and staff are instructed to use these bins that will be later deposited in our composting dumpster. Any waste from preparation and food spoilage are collected to be sent to the Iowa State Composting Facility instead of being landfilled.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a post-consumer composting program?:

A brief description of the post-consumer composting program:

Food waste from three of the four dining centers is collected by scraping waste off plates into collection bins by dining employees. Conscious efforts are made to have all only compostable products accessible in the front of the house dining area; no individually-packaged condiments, creamers, or plastic stir sticks are available for consumers. This ensures a “clean” compost collection and no need to sort at the compost facility.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor utilize reusable service ware for “dine in” meals?:

A brief description of the reusable service ware program:

All four of the self-service dining centers (traditional style, all you care to dine buffet) utilize reusable serviceware. Plate size and shapes and their impact on food waste are factored into the decision making process when new serviceware needs to be purchased.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor provide reusable and/or third party certified compostable containers and service ware for “to-go” meals (in conjunction with an on-site composting program)?:

A brief description of the compostable containers and service ware:

All carry-out meal containers are compostable and can be accepted in compost collection locations in specific locations on campus. Customers are able to compost their meal containers (including lids) and napkins at these locations.

ISU Dining purchases compostable containers from Genpak, a company that offers sustainabile food packaging. These products are made from natural plant-based materials such as fiber, paper, and bagasse.

ISU Dining purchases compostable straws made from PLA, a plant-based plastic, from Eco-Products. The straws are BPA-certified and ASTM compliant.
ISU Dining purchases soup bowls made from bamboo and unbleached plant fiber from from World Centric. The bamboo and plant fiber is an annually renewable resource and certified compostable. They also purchase fiber boxes and lids made from the same bamboo and unbleached plant fiber. The boxes are made from an annually renewable resource, have a bio-based lining, and contain no added PFAS. Additionally, the lids are made from NatureWorks Ingeo, which is derived from plants grown in the USA.

ISU Dining cups also purchases cups from World Centric. These cups are made from FSC paper with NatureWorks Ingeo PLA lining. The cups are compostable and eco-friendly.

ISU Dining purchases disposable and compostable spoons from World Centric as well. The spoons are made from 70% non-GMO and 30% talc. These compostable utensils are designed to reduce waste and provide a safe, non-toxic alternative to plastic.

ISU Dining purchases paper wrap from Bagcraft Ecocraft, as an environmentally-friendly solution to wrapping deli or sandwich items. It is made from recycled, compostable, natural kraft paper using an FDA-approved, chlorine free manufacturing process. Ecocraft’s unbleached paper reduces wood fiber waste by 21% compared to a similar bleached paper product. The carton that this product is packaged in is 100% recycled post-consumer content and is printed with soy-based inks.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor offer discounts or other incentives to customers who use reusable containers instead of disposable or compostable containers in “to-go” food service operations?:

A brief description of the reusable container discount or incentives program:

Consumers at all coffee service locations on campus can receive a $.35 discount when their personal mug is utilized. During various events related to sustainability, this incentive will increase to a $.50 savings. This service option is utilized ~3,897 times annually by our customers. Digital and printed signage communicates this incentive to guests within the the buildings where cafés can be found.

A brief description of other sustainability-related initiatives not covered above:

ISU Dining makes a great effort to purchase and prepare items that are suitable for a variety of religious practices. During Passover kosher meats, cheeses, and a variety of other options are available for purchase in the markets. They also provides concessions for customers practicing Ramadan, including to-go containers for their morning and evening meals. ISU Dining hosts different events throughout the year that create awareness and increase appreciation about other cultural options and provides culturally diverse options for their customers in all their dining locations. They provide dishes influenced by different cultures and allow the options to customize dishes with culturally diverse toppings.

ISU Dining’s contract with Prime Vendor is written to utilize reusable plastic pallets. This contract utilizes the long life of the plastic pallets to eliminate the need to find a source to haul away or dispose of wood pallets and reduces wood waste.

ISU Dining prioritizes bulk packaging when making food purchasing decisions, as well as opportunities to maximize the diversion of waste from cardboard, glass, plastic, etc., from landfilling.

Batch cooking, standardizing recipes, menu planning, and menu forecasting are incorporated as a part of day-to-day operations to prevent and reduce food waste.

ISU Dining hosts a Food Committee, a committee that provides interested students with the opportunity to learn more about dining and have a sneak peek into renovations, menu planning, sustainable efforts, etc.

In partnership with Dubuque County nursing home, ISU Dining provides returned student employee shirts (offering a reuse option before cloth recycling) to the nursing home to assist a resident who has sensory challenges and requires a new shirt daily. The home cannot reuse shirts and is required to supply a new shirt daily.

Iowa State Dining is collaborating with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) to bring individuals with various challenges into campus locations to supply employment opportunities.

ISU Dining created the “Give a Swipe” program in collaboration with student leaders. Within this program, students can donate meal swipes to peers who battle food security.

ISU Dining has been approved to accept SNAP benefits, and is currently working through the IT/debit logistics.

Partnering with the ISU Horticulture Research Farm and local growers to maximize opportunities to fulfill produce needs during the growing/academic season overlap. ISU Dining collaborates with ISU Horticulture Research Farm at the end of the calendar year to determine the growing plans for upcoming academic year. There are consistent purchases of apples due to perennial growth on the farm. Additional crops are then determined based off of ISU Dining’s consistent needs and the abilities of the ISU Horticulture Research Farm. Additional produce is available for purchase when crop research is performed (soil irrigation, tarp coloring/textures, etc). ISU Dining also spends at least 10% of its annual budget to support the Farm to ISU Program, founded in 2007. The program includes purchases in three different categories, locally grown/produced, Organic/Fair Trade, and locally manufactured. Depending on their ongoing needs, ISU Dining purchases apples, peppers, onions, and more from the ISU Horticulture Research Farm, amounting to over 4,150lb in local product from the campus farm. During the academic year 2021-2022, ISU Dining purchased four different crops from the ISU Horticulture farm.

ISU Dining routinely features locally grown food within themed events and daily service alike. ISU Dining highlights local growers and producers where the food is served to educate the students and guests on where the food product came from. For example, rotisserie chicken is grown locally, and near the service area, signage about the Dolan family is on display. The local tofu, apples, honey, etc., has similar signage. This education has been added to the digital screens to continually rotate these informational messages within service areas while also reducing paper use.

The Give a Swipe program gives students the ability to help support food security on campus. Students can donate Flex Meals or Dining Dollars to other students in need of meal assistance due to hardship. Student donations will turn into meal swipes that can be used in any dining center. ISU Dining partners with other departments on campus, (Office of Student Assistance, Student Wellness, Financial Aid, International Students & Scholars, and Student Counseling Services) to help identify students in need to receive these meals. The meals donated during donation week will be available all semester long. Since the program started in 2019, the program has donated over 1,000 meals to students facing food insecurity.

Website URL where information about the sustainable dining programs is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.