|Submission Date||March 6, 2020|
University of Connecticut
OP-8: Sustainable Dining
|2.00 / 2.00||
Ofice of Environmental Policy
Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a published sustainable dining policy?:
A brief description of the sustainable dining policy:
Dining Services is committed to the Menus of Change initiative, which through its Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus, provides unique guidance for the foodservice industry and brings together findings from nutritional and environmental science perspectives on optimal food choices, trends in consumer preferences, and impacts of projected demographic shifts.
The Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus at UConn:
1. Be transparent about sourcing and preparation.
2. Buy fresh and seasonal, local and global.
3. Reward better agricultural practices.
4. Leverage globally inspired, plant-based culinary strategies.
5. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods.
6. Grow everyday options, while honoring special occasion traditions.
7. Lead with menu messaging around flavor.
8. Reduce portions, emphasizing calorie quality over quantity.
9. Celebrate cultural diversity and discovery.
10. Design health and sustainability into operations and dining spaces.
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:
Spring Valley Student Farm (SVSF) sprouted in spring 2010 from a project planted by Residential Life. Since that time SVSF has blossomed into a year-round community for eleven student farmers living in two UConn houses 4.5 miles off campus. The student farmers learn about sustainable community living, organic food growing methods and the business aspects of how food is harvested, processed and presented to the UConn dining community. As stewards and ambassadors of the farm the student farmers support Spring Valley Student Farm as an educational destination where everyone may come together to learn and grow.
Spring Valley Student Farm (SVSF) provides an opportunity for UConn students and the greater community to join together to learn about environmentally, socially and economically ethical regenerative food production through hands-on experience. The Farm allows students to gain practical knowledge and skills through experiential learning while simultaneously modeling a closed loop food model in which organic produce is grown on campus for UConn Dining Services.
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:
UConn Dining Services sponsors a Farm Fresh Market in the middle of campus that runs from May to September. The Market offers fresh local produce from our own Spring Valley Student Farm and other local farms, baked goods from our Not Just Desserts Bakery, local honey and many other local products each week.
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:
UConn Dining Services has won gold in the NACUFS Best Vegan Recipe Contest and received a “Vegan Friendly” rating from PETA’s Vegan Report Card.
Out of 9890 recipes in our food pro information system, 300 are vegan. In addition, there are many options on bars (i.e. grain bars) that are vegan, but are not included in this number as individual entrees. Every lunch and dinner there are at least 1 to 2 vegan recipes offered. In addition, Dining Services is expanding its vegan offerings at breakfast as with vegan french toast, vegan pancakes, and mung bean eggs.
We are proud to offer vegan options in every one of our facilities on campus including:
• Eight residential dining halls
• Seven coffee shops/cafes
• Union Street Market food court
• One Plate, Two Plates farm-to-table restaurant
• Bistro on Union Street restaurant
• UConn Catering
We are a proud user of many vegan based proteins, and was one of the first Universities in the country to use a pea protein based product-called “Beyond Meat” which is a non GMO, Organic, Gluten Free meatless alternative.
A majority of our Vegan option are prepared on site from scratch-Some of our most popular vegan options are:
*Sweet Potato Kale Burgers
*Moroccan Vegetable Tagine
*Brazilian Vegetable and Bean stews
*Rigatoni w/ White Bean Ragout
*Eggplant Caponata w/ Focaccia Crostini
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:
Every April, the Department of Dining Services hosts a Zero-Waste Barbeque as part of UConn’s Earth Day Spring Fling celebration. The barbeque features vegan burgers and “salad on a stick.” No utensils are needed, all plates are reusable, and all napkins are compostable. There are several waste stations manned by volunteers to direct students to compost correctly.
In 2018, UConn also hosted a Tasty Waste Lunch, which consisted entirely of items that were set to be discarded by local grocery stores. The lunch fed 800 people, including students, faculty, and community members, serving as an educational opportunity and allowing the UConn community to reconsider their food buying and eating habits. https://dailycampus.com/stories/2018/4/20/tasty-waste-lunch-helps-educate-uconn-community-about-food-waste
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:
Whitney Dining Hall holds a vegan Thanksgiving Dinner in November, offering all the traditional cozy dishes of Thanksgiving, without the animal cruelty and proliferation of industrial feedlots, which are detrimental to the environment.
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:
The Food for Thought food truck on campus is sustainability focused. They use local eggs in all their breakfast dishes, and other local products whenever they can. They also offer tofu as an alternative to meat and eggs.
One Plate Two Plates is restaurant in the Student Union that focuses on using local, sustainable, and healthy foods. “One Plate, Two Plates” was conceived with the philosophy that our menu options will be made from non-processed foods. We realize there are individuals on campus looking to strive for a healthy balanced diet with natural foods versus foods made with artificial ingredients. We hope that creating a menu based on preparing real, locally-sourced food made daily from scratch will meet our community’s needs.
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:
All eight dining halls on campus are Green Restaurant Certified, and signage is present in each of the dining halls informing patrons of the certification. A brief description of the sustainability objectives encompassed by the Green Restaurant program is also included.
Each of the food items in the dining halls are labeled with allergens and nutritional values. Locally grown products are labeled as such.
The dining halls also label sustainably harvested seafood and nonconventionally raised meats. Further, signage regarding the harmful effects of pesticides on bees and the importance of bees in food production is present.
The new “Bo’s Seasoned Blended Burger” is specially labeled in the dining halls. Consumers are informed that the Blended Burger is 25% mushrooms and 75% seasoned angus beef. As a result of this blend, the burger is lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol, and also uses less resources to produce than a conventional burger.
You can find complete ingredients and nutrition information for all dishes at http://dining.uconn.edu/
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:
Dining Services committed to the Menus of Change Initiative, which includes the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (MCURC). MCURC focuses on research and education to advance healthier, more sustainable life-long food choices among students. In addition, Dining Services has toured Spring Valley Student Farm, partnered with the Real Slow Foods UConn group, highlighted sustainable initiatives in numerous classroom lectures, and committed to speaking appointments with EcoHusky, EcoHouse, and the Vegan Club.
As mentioned previously, UConn hosted a Tasty Waste Lunch in 2018 and hosts a Zero-Waste Barbeque as part of UConn’s Earth Day Spring Fling celebration each April, both of which serve to educate students, faculty, and community members on sustainable eating habits.
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:
All eight residential dining facilities have numerous energy star rated pieces of equipment; brands such as True, Meiko, Camro, Cres Cor, Hobart, Frymaster, etc. When equipment has run its life cycle the Department is careful to select only equipment that meets the energy star rating.
In addition, McMahon is an International themed Dining Hall includes a Tandoori oven, Wok Station, Brick Oven and full service Char Grill offering a variety of Global cuisine by chefs who prepare these flavorful dishes in front of you. The dining area is bright and lined with windows that overlook the campus and provide natural lighting.
Lastly, Dining Services plates are branded “Husky Plates” with a graphic reminding students about portion sizes, a balanced diet, and healthy beverage consumption. This graphic promotes health and wellness and encourages the consumption of plant-based foods as a part of a well-rounded meal.
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:
In partnership with UConn Dining Services and UConn Community Outreach, Food Recovery collects and delivers surplus food to the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, CT. This food includes leftover sandwiches from the cafes that are delivered multiple times per week.
Several programs that track and prevent food waste that the Department of Dining Services uses are LeanPath, and FoodPro. LeanPath is a computer based system with a camera and scale. Employees weigh items being discarded, and the system logs and takes a picture of the item. Dining Services utilizes this information to adjust future preparation to minimize waste. According to Dining Services, the LeanPath system has made a significant impact in reducing food waste to date.
In FoodPro, wasted items are recorded on paper and then typed into the Foodpro Waste Module for future reference. Additionally, Dining Services is studying post-consumer waste in the largest Dining Hall on campus to develop a baseline level of waste per transaction. Once the baseline is established, Dining plans to study the effectiveness of various strategies to reduce post-consumer waste. Lastly, Dining Services has recently attended various educational events, where they have learned more about acceptable practices for the reheating and reuse of food, allowing them to identify additional opportunities for waste reduction.
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 of the eight dining halls on campus are trayless, as well as the Student Union Market dining area and all eight cafes on campus.
McMahon dining hall serves pre-portioned food in individual servings to promote healthy portion sizes, and actually reduces the amount of food waste that is generated as a result of students putting too much food on their plates.
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:
As mentioned previously, Food Recovery collects and delivers surplus food to the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, CT. Dining Services also conducts an inventory at the end of each semester of all food that would otherwise spoil over break to donate to the Covenant Soup Kitchen.
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:
The cooking oil used in the dining halls is recycled by Newport Bio Diesel. In 2019, Dining Services recycled 8,344 gallons of cooking oil.
Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a pre-consumer composting program?:
A brief description of the pre-consumer composting program:
Dining Services has a pre-consumer composting program in which food waste is being sent to Quantum Biopower in Southington, CT, where it is anaerobically digested and converted into renewable biogas. The remaining co-product is used for livestock bedding, compost, and fertilizer. This program has recently been scaled up in 2019 to include all eight dining halls and catering operations. Further expansion is expected in the future.
Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a post-consumer composting program?:
A brief description of the post-consumer composting program:
Dining Services utilizes the Quantum Biopower program mentioned above to handle post-consumer food waste as well. Post-consumer food waste is processed for all eight dining halls and catering operations.
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 dining halls utilize ceramic plates, metal utensils, plastic bowls, and plastic cups that are returned and washed in energy efficient dish washing machines. Students can also order meals in reusable containers from the Union Street Market Food Court.
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 of the containers and cups used at the Student Union Marketplace, catering operations, and campus cafes are from the Eco-Products brand. Depending on the item, Eco-Products are produced with either 24% post-consumer recycled office paper or 100% renewable energy. For the Earth Day Spring Fling and Arbor Day Celebration, food is distributed on compostable plates with compostable forks.
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:
The Student Union Marketplace Food Court offers a reusable container called the “Green Piece” in which students can purchase their meals. This program has recently been revamped and rebranded. The container is now completely free to the consumer and new marketing materials remind students to ask for a Green Piece. The reusable containers have been designed for repeated use and are dishwasher-safe, BPA-free, and incorporated with Microban (NSF-approved). When a customer is finished with their meal, they return the container to the designated drop-off bin inside the Union Street Market or to any cashier. Then, the used containers are cleaned and sanitized in our dish machine before being restocked at service stations. Additionally, if you use a reusable mug at a UConn café, the price is marked as a refill, which is approximately 50 percent cheaper than a cup of coffee in a disposable coffee up.
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:
Every weekday morning Food Recovery student volunteers arrive at the Library’s Bookworms Café to collect any prepackaged foods like salads and sandwiches that were not sold during the previous day. Bookworms receives all the unsold food products from all UConn Cafes as it is the last one to close. Students also collect food from Putnam and Towers dining halls. The volunteers then drive the food to the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Food is transported in cambro containers or produce bags depending on the type of food being donated. Food safety is the number one priority, so Food Recovery is careful to keep track of the temperatures of the food en route from UConn to Willimantic.
Additionally, napkins have been moved off of dining hall tables and put in centralized dispensers. During the pilot program in 2014, two dining units moved the napkin dispensers and demonstrated $4,000 in savings, resulting in the use of 286,000 fewer napkins. Now, the program extends to other dining halls as well, minimizing napkin use in cafeterias.
Lastly, Dining Services has made a commitment to eliminating all Styrofoam packaging from its supply chain where feasible to reduce its environmental impact and improve packaging recyclability (some meat packaging vendors are unable to accommodate this commitment at this time).
The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission: