Overall Rating Reporter
Overall Score
Liaison Megan Curtis-Murphy
Submission Date May 28, 2021
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Northeastern University
OP-8: Sustainable Dining

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Reporter Carol Rosskam
Sustainability Program Manager
Office of Sustainability, Facilities Mgmt.
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a published sustainable dining policy?:

A brief description of the sustainable dining policy:

Every year since 2008, NU Dining provides an annual Green Dining Plan. It includes dining policies that describe sustainability initiatives and the past year's accomplishments in food menu improvements, program changes, and local sourcing updates.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor source food from a campus garden or farm?:

A brief description of the program to source food from a campus garden or farm:

The Boston campus, like most of the regional campuses, are located in dense, urban neighborhoods without sufficient space for a campus garden or farm. That being said, until 2020, there were approximately four outdoor herb gardens around the Boston campus that were accessible to the entire Northeastern community; and a "living wall" in International Village Dining Hall that grew herbs used by dining services in its cooking.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host a farmers market, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery program, and/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:

Since 2012, farmers markets have been held on campus except during COVID-19. A CSA has been offered almost every year of the past five to six years, either by Human Resources Management or HEAT, one of the student groups. The CSAs were open to the entire Boston campus Northeastern community.

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:

Northeastern Dining continues to be at the forefront of vegan and vegetarian dining and the diverse range of menu options continues expanding exponentially at dining locations across campus.

The residential dining vegan and vegetarian program recently underwent a rebranding, bringing all plant-forward menu options under the “Rooted” name. Rooted is focused on real, wholesome foods with minimally-processed ingredients that are completely plant-based. Recipes for this concept revolve around flavor and bringing excitement to plant-based dining with international and comfort foods. This program brings a little bit of everything, with spices originating in the Middle East, such as Baharat, to street food favorites like Pad Thai and comfort foods like "meat" loaf with cauliflower rice. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy! Levine Marketplace and International Village each offer a dedicated Rooted station with a rotating menu of these delicious, plant-forward menu items. In addition, the Food Hall at Stetson West has a popular made-to-order stir fry station where guests can choose from an abundance of fresh, seasonal vegetables cooked with proteins, including tofu, and sauces that are marked as vegan or vegetarian.

Northeastern Dining also provides a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options each day throughout all of its campus retail locations. Soy and rice milk are also available from dedicated taps in specially marked refrigerated dispensers and almond, cashew and soy milk are available for retail purchase in the Market convenience store. Northeastern’s newest retail dining location, Tu Taco, features a Latin flair, as it includes a variety of vegan and vegetarian options such as Avocado Chili Braised Tacos, Vegetable Salad bowls, and tofu chile verde filled burritos. Café Crossing offers build your own sandwich or bowl options, including house made pulled bbq mushrooms, with chef-designed Café Signatures, such as the Ultimate Veggie sandwich and Chimichurri Bowl. Introducing one of our new signature salads “Planetary Bowl” which focuses on the menus of change in a bowl form and is changed three times a semester as demand allows. Pizza choices at Sweet Tomatoes Neapolitan Pizza include many vegetarian specialty pizzas such as “Pesto Splash” or “Veggie Garden” pizzas. Boston-based burger chain UBurger offers to change any of their specialty or build-your-own sandwiches to a veggie burger at no additional charge. Asian fusion offerings include the “create-your-own” Asian stir fry concept Kigo Kitchen lends itself well to a vegetarian guest as there are several meat-free options, including baked tofu and fresh edamame, as well as the choice to have vegetables only. Additionally, the popular Sizzlin’ Salads concept available in the Student Center allows for a customizable Classic Salad with a diverse variety of garden fresh ingredients and the option to top it with one’s choice of protein—including tofu—which is sautéed right in front of guests.
Northeastern University was also invited back to be a part of the 2019 Let's Talk About Food festival at Harvard University and we were honored once more as the winners of the second Vegan Chili Beanpot. The contest, sponsored by Bush's Beans, pitted the dining services teams from traditional ice hockey rivals Harvard, Boston College, and Boston University in a vegan chili cook-off with festival attendees voting for their favorite version. Northeastern Dining’s aptly named "Championship Chili 2.0," in honor of the Northeastern men's hockey team's 2019 – and 2nd year in a row - Beanpot victory, featured two bean varieties and cremini mushrooms as the base while newly incorporating “Beyond Meat” Italian Sausage links which enhances the Anaheim chili peppers, pureed kelp and coriander. The secret weapon this year was a white chili seasoning that paired with our aquafaba/avocado aioli that was dolloped carefully into the center of the serving soup bowl and topped with our tahini & liquid smoked Carrot bacon. The chili has been served around campus at residential locations as well as during special events in in honor of our hockey teams victory and our own.

The Xhibition Kitchen’s list of guests also includes vegan chefs and cookbook authors, including recent guest chef Claudia Lucero (One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese) who un-hacked the mystery of cheese making to a captivated audience of students, parents, and family members with a unique menu of delicious vegan cheese recipes.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host low impact dining events (e.g. Meatless Mondays)?:

A brief description of the low impact dining events:

NU Dining Services regularly hosts and publicizes "Meatless Mondays", including recipes and promoting related health and wellness information. In addition, special dining events regularly held during non-Covid years provide fully reusable plates and utensils that reduce the impact of the event, along with the robust composting that's available. Certain themed events may highlight locally sourced fish and seafood, and educational materials supporting the event's intention to educate and offer locally sourced food materials.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host sustainability-themed meals (e.g. local harvest dinners)?:

A brief description of the sustainability-themed meals:

Local Harvest is a central theme especially during the New England fall, which offers apples, squash, carrots, beets, and other seasonal produce that is tied into themed foods like apple sauce, squash soup, and full locally harvested meals. The supporting educational materials in the dining halls and on the daily menu boards help to raise awareness about the NU Dining Services sustainability initiatives and the meals prepared as a part of those efforts.

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:

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

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

The dining halls publicize sustainability and local food sources in many ways. There is specific signage that overviews the NU Dining sustainability initiatives. Information is available to explain the "Menus of Change" and "Rooted" programs that integrate health, wellness, sustainability and local sourcing.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor engage in outreach efforts to support learning and research about sustainable food systems?:

A brief description of the outreach efforts to support learning and research about sustainable food systems:

NU Dining offers multiple programs that address learning/research about sustainable food systems. Dining Director Maureen Timmons regularly speaks as a special guest in various classes on campus. Xhibition Kitchen offers year-round, in-person events during non-COVID times, where special guest chefs talk about sustainability and food, farming, plant-based, and vegan recipes/cooking. There are also specific programs as part of the Menus of Change Collaborative that includes NU Dining, and regional collaborations such as Red's Best Seafood, that offer hands-on experiences for students to conduct research on - and experience the initiative's framework for change and sustainability.

2020-2021 marked the second semester that Northeastern Dining started its “Food Literacy” Class in conjunction with the University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. This is the first premier class series focusing on the revitalization of the modern food systems and our affect throughout as a community and an individual contributor. This one credit course brings together experts in Northeastern Dining Services, including: the Director of Dining Services, Campus Executive Chef, and the Dining Dietitian, and the broader campus community, to foster greater food literacy by applying the Menus of Change Principles to how one eats. The class is guided by these principles and mindfully composed by the culinary team with the intentional sharing of resources across menu items that will be served for the students to the class that are an interpretation of the Menus of Change principles that are focused on that day. As the students learn they are also given real world skills and recipes to take from the class as our executive chef demonstrates how the principles can be applied in daily life. From the principle “Serve More Kinds of Seafood More Often”, NU Dining highlights the use of underutilized fish in a fish taco with Pollock and by “Cut the Salt; Rethink Flavor Development From the Ground Up” shows the intricacies of using spices to flavor and what that might look like. Leaving students more inquisitive about the food they eat shows more of an interest populating on the overall culture of eating. Before the pandemic, our interest and support from the University in having these classes was hopeful.
Northeastern University Dining was also honored to receive a New England Food Vision Prize from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation. Its purpose is to raise awareness about the environmental, economic, and health impacts of food choices. The goal is to use the purchasing power of institutions to build regional agricultural resilience and to influence the hearts and minds of consumers. The Kendall Foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to each of the top five submissions. Northeastern, along with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and Eastern Connecticut State University, were collectively awarded $500,000 (from two different grants) to collaborate on solutions designed to support use of more regionally produced foods.

In 2020, NU Dining continued in this spirit by having our Executive Chef, Tom Barton, on the panel of “Sea Summit 2021” which was an engaging panel and stakeholder dialogue, where speakers shared how a team of colleges and supply chain partners tackled these issues by utilizing the Food Vision Prize. Chef Tom shared how NU Dining worked to bring underutilized species of fish and the use of kelp into the community and our University dining program, even with the added challenges presented by a global pandemic.

Central to this initiative is a strategy to incorporate kelp and underutilized fish into menus. The universities partner with Ipswich Fish, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, Red’s Best, Farm Fresh Rhode Island, New Bedford Port Authority, and Buyers & Sellers Seafood Auction (BASE) to improve sourcing and provide traceable, local, underutilized fish on their campuses. Most critically, the institutional partners have committed to offering campus menus with at least 75% locally sourced fish. To introduce students to the use of kelp in recipes and meals, the four universities have partnered with Farm Fresh Rhode Island, Sardilli Produce, and Dole & Bailey to expand the versatility of kelp as a staple ingredient.
Northeastern Dining was able to implement a myriad of initiatives listed henceforth:
• Its fish is primarily sourced from local fisherman from whom more than 500 pounds are underutilized;
• Interns were hired to promote the knowledge of, and sustainability relevant to the underutilized fish;
• Teaching kitchens and pop up events were introduced that were based solely on the underutilized fish - and kelp - and were served to educate the students on their place/role in the intricate ecosystem;
• A community event was planned and hosted for the surrounding and diverse neighborhood population of Northeastern University on the skills and education needed to make the community more consumer-educated.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have other sustainability-related initiatives (e.g. health and wellness initiatives, making culturally diverse options available)?:

A brief description of the other sustainability-related dining initiatives:

Northeastern University on the skills and education needed to make the community more consumer-educated.

Sustainable culinary education is not limited to Northeastern students as the dining team regularly participates in plant-forward training sessions. With the ever increasing guest need for more humane food, we were happy to have over 30 of our own employees learn the benefit to serving Vegan food as well as how it can be an influential diet for yourself as well as a means of creating a better food systems.

In continuing efforts to educate the student population, NU Dining partnered with the program “Imperfectly Delicious Produce” (IDP) which utilizes “non-retail” Grade A fruits and vegetables that have slight cosmetic imperfections. This produce is typically left un-harvested in the field or discarded from retail sale but is perfectly suitable for cooking. Cosmetically perfect produce is not essential for food service operations as our chef’s slice and dice the produce so flavor and Quality are most important. Some vegetables in this program are spinach, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, baby chard, and cauliflower.

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:

NU Dining has a strong commitment to its food recovery program. This is comprehensive in that it includes the food preparation areas' composting; continuous staff education; trayless dining; portion modifications; and careful monitoring of the relationship between meal planning, purchased materials, prepared meals, and consumed food.

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:

Trayless dining was implemented approximately 2018 in all dining halls on campus. Modified menus/portions have been offered for many years, but increasingly publicized in recent years and complemented by signage around the dining halls and link moderated portion size to health and wellness, and the environmental impacts of food waste overall.

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:

Dining Services provides food donations using packaged foods that haven not been open and, according to state Public Health laws, have not been sitting out.

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor divert food materials from the landfill, incinerator or sewer for animal feed or industrial uses (e.g. converting cooking oil to fuel, on-site anaerobic digestion)?:

A brief description of the food materials diversion program:

Both brown and yellow grease are diverted. The program has been underway for more than two decades. In 2020, 17.31 tons of yellow grease, and 112.48 tons of brown grease, were recycled. In a normal, non-Covid year, between 700-800 tons of food are composted; in 2020 over 200 tons were composted, with the low tonnage being specifically due to Covid-19 closures on campus (dining halls, food preparation areas).

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

A brief description of the pre-consumer composting program:

All new NU dining staff are trained in the pre-consumer food composting program, and ongoing training is regularly provided thereafter. There is extensive signage in all food preparation areas to support the streamlining of the food composting process.

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

A brief description of the post-consumer composting program:

Since 2007, the University has provided food composting on the Boston campus. In addition to extensive signage to educate consumers in what, and how to correctly compost, NU Dining had special compost bins made for use in the dining halls - both in residential halls and other areas. Starting in 2019 fall, the composting program has undergone extensive changes and the new composting vendor is supporting the University's Materials/Recycling Management Office to more fully integrate the food composting piece into a larger, more comprehensive management program. Fall 2021, there are already plans being developed to integrate recycling information tabling along with information tabling by the Office of Sustainability and especially focus on freshmen students who will be new to the University's composting and recycling efforts.

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 residential dining halls and other NU Dining kiosks offer a full complement of reusable service ware. Depending on the events and hosts, fully reusable service wear is also available on request.

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 dining halls provide third party certified compostable containers and service ware for to-go meals; this includes straws, napkins, and cups. In the student center food court area, the NU Dining kiosks provide fully compostable containers and service ware.

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

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

Not applicable in the last year during COVID-19.

Has the institution or its primary dining services contractor implemented other materials management initiatives to minimize waste not covered above (e.g. working with vendors and other entities to reduce waste from food packaging)?:

A brief description of other dining services materials management initiatives:

Several years ago, changes were implemented in the dining halls to further eliminate waste with ketchup and potato chips; instead of individual packages, there are now large containers available that eliminate the waste from the small packages.

A wide range of sustainability best practices are employed throughout all Northeastern dining facilities and operations:
• Residential dining locations are trayless in response to a student-led initiative, and continue to be trayless with changes resulting from the onset of Covid-19;
• Northeastern Dining’s residential take-out concept, Outtakes, has removed single-use plastic bags from its operation; guests are encouraged to bring their own bags or can purchase one as part of their transaction;
• Plastic straws were removed from all residential dining locations across campus and a majority of retail dining locations have transitioned from plastic-based to compostable straws;
• 20.53% of all produce served last year was locally grown; This is up 6 percentage points from last year
• 242.62 tons of single stream mixed recyclables were recycled campus-wide in 2020;
• 223.15 tons of food waste were composted in 2020;
• 100% of all #10 cans in kitchens are washed, crushed, and recycled annually;
• 100% of dining services cardboard is compacted and recycled;
• 17.3 tons of yellow grease were recycled in 2020; since 2010, more than 21,000 gallons of used yellow fryolator oil has been donated to a local company for conversion into biomass fuel for schools and hospitals in southern New England;
• 112.48 tons of brown kitchen trap grease were recycled campus-wide in 2020;
• 198,900 HFAC certified eggs served as NU Dining exclusively purchases humanely raised and handled eggs;
• Compostable serviceware products – from hot cups for take-out coffee, to corn-based, compostable cutlery in retail locations (where brands allow) and residential dining locations;
• Northeastern Dining uses an electric utility van designed to produce zero emissions for on- and off-campus catering deliveries;
• Napkin dispensers in all dining locations are specifically designed to discourage excessive use of napkins, thus reducing waste and costs;
• Cleaning Green
o Dishwashers are Energy Star rated and the curtains used reduce water and energy consumption by up to 3%;
o Machine detergents are 99.7% phosphate and phosphorus free; rinse additives comply with FDA Food Code criteria;
o Manual detergents and presoaks are 100% phosphate and phosphorus free.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives 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.