Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.31
Liaison Natalie Walker
Submission Date Aug. 9, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Pennsylvania
OP-8: Sustainable Dining

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Natalie Walker
Sustainability Manager
Penn Sustainability
"---" 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:

Since 2004, the University Square Farmers Market has been held at the corner of 36th and Walnut Streets, outside the Penn Bookstore. The Market is open Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round. The Farmers’ Market offers neighbors and members of the Penn community an opportunity to buy fresh, delicious food from local farmers as well as allowing students to make purchases using their dining plans. Some of the products offered at the market include conventional vegetables, IPM fruit & berries, sweet cider; European-style baked goods, pastries, breads, and granola; plants and flowers for the home and office, seedlings for the garden; all-natural soaps and body care products; and artisanal chocolates. This market accepts FMNP vouchers, Dining Dollars, and PennCash.

The University also hosts three campus growing spaces; including the Penn Park Orchard, the Penn Food and Wellness Collaborative Penn Park Farm, and the Penn Student Garden.

The Penn Park Orchard is affiliated with the Philadelphia Orchard Project and is home to strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, juneberries, figs, and many other fruits, nuts, and herbs. The orchard aims to educate and create access to local food for both Penn and the wider Philadelphia community, hosting events open to anyone.

The Penn Food and Wellness Collaborative Penn Park Farm opened in the summer of 2020 and brings together partners from the Center for Public health Initiatives, Facilities and Real Estate Services, Wellness at Penn, and Penn Sustainability. The farm will host a wide variety of programming including class visits, internships, workshops, volunteer opportunities, and events, with an emphasis on promoting wellness on campus.

The Penn Student Garden is a raised-bed organic garden located between Harrison College House and Spruce Street. It serves as a shared educational space for the Penn and West Philadelphia communities and is part of the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (AUNI).

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:

A local farmers market on campus, providing local produce, baked goods, plants, and much more. Students are able to pay for farmers market items with dining hall voucher points. The farmers market provides produce to both students and faculty/staff.

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:

Bon Appetit’s major social enterprise support is focused on the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises, established as a resource for start-up food businesses and food processors in need of commercial kitchen space and business support. This fruitful relationship is going on 10 years. Part of The Enterprise Center's mission is to encourage the growth of local businesses and spur job creation in our communities. Through this partnership, Bon Appetit works with businesses primarily in the West Philadelphia community to provide opportunities for their products to be part of either our retail, residential, or catering portfolio. Some prominent examples include Affinity Confection, Darnell’s Cookies, Simply Good Jars, Rebel Ventures, and Sweet Nina’s Desserts.

Additionally, Bon Appetit also partners with many subject matter experts through the Philadelphia Economy Leagues Anchor Institution initiative, which is working on strengthening the use of small business by Philadelphia based Medical and Educational institutions.

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:

Bon Appetite hosts various themed challenges, events, and months. Examples are listed below:
• March: National Nutrition Month®
o Penn Dining celebrated by adapting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ national theme of Personalize Nutrition into “Personalize Your Plants”. We educated guests throughout the whole month about creative ways to cook and eat plants according to their own personal tastes through multiple digital, including:
 Zoom Dinner with the Dietitian – “A Plant-Forward Discussion”
• Co-hosted by PennVeg a student-run academic society researching and promoting discourse around plant-based diets, sustainability, and bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.
 Zoom with the Dietitian
• Co-hosted with Aakash Padmanabha, President of the Penn Dining Advisory Board.
 Food For Your Well-Bering Digital Video and Articles
• A short video and multiple articles posted on the dining website throughout the month giving further details around plant-based eating and cooking, coupled with in-café menu highlights of plant-forward items
• April: Earth Day 5-Day Plant-Forward Challenge
o This year for Earth day we will be challenging our students to a 5-day plant-forward challenge. We will ask students to join us in the café each day the week of Earth Day and commit to eating five meals that:
 Use Smart Techniques – Apply cooking techniques often reserved for meats on plants.
 Make Fruits and Vegetables Superstars – Use all parts of the plant and make your plate half produce.
 Blend – Blend animal proteins with vegetables, whole grains, beans, and/or lentils.
 Get Saucy – Use plant-based sauces, chutneys, salsas, and dips to add flavor and interest.
 Offer (Plant-Based) Proteins – Be it tofu, seitan, beans, or plant-based “meats” – try a plant protein that is new to you.

Plant-Forward Philosophy and Commitments

Bon Appetit defines Plant-Forward as: A style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, plant-based foods — includes fruits and vegetables; whole grains; beans, other legumes (pulses), and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices — resulting in craveable meals that reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability.
• All of our cafés adhere to our Well-Being Commitments, which include specific commitments regarding plant-based food options.
• Menus are written based on seasonality and availability of regional fresh ingredients.
• Whole foods are used as the foundation of a healthful diet. Meals center on abundant fresh produce, whole grains, and lean and/or plant-based proteins, prepared with minimal amounts of healthy, plant-derived fats.
• Flavors are developed through skilled healthy cooking techniques, with the use of fresh herbs and authentic spices, not through unhealthy shortcuts of using fat, sugar, and salt.
• Reasonable portion sizes are the rule and healthy menu items are a mainstream offering throughout our cafés.
• Vegetables are prepared in small batches as close to serving time as possible.
• Vegetarian and vegan options are plentiful at every meal.
• Ingredients containing artificial trans fats or MSG are not used in our kitchens.
• Olive and canola oils are used for everyday salad dressings. Specialty oils are used for other purposes (i.e. walnut oil or chili oil). Peanut oil is never used in the preparation of our food.

We have also created specific stations that celebrate plant-based foods.
• Very Veggie Station - The Very Veggie station features plant-forward globally inspired entrées while also being vegan and made without gluten-containing ingredients. Menu items are inspired by a combination of global flavors and seasonal produce sourced locally. The Very Veggie station is a great option — but not the only option — for those following a vegan diet and those choosing to avoid gluten.
• Mezze station – A middle-eastern inspired station serving plant-based dips paired with whole grain and vegetable salads along with pita bread.

Additionally, our plant-forward strategy is utilized throughout our cafés. In these dishes we aim to minimize the amount of, or eliminate, animal products. Dishes include:
• Jackfruit, black bean, and green rice bowl
• Turkey quinoa and mushroom meatloaf
• Plantain and sweet potato tacos with chorizo spiced pork

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:

Penn has been identified by PETA for the past several years as one of the most Vegan-Friendly Schools in the country. Penn Dining & Bon Appétit offer vegan dining options in every dining location, at every meal. Bon Appétit meets and works with the Penn Vegan Society on a monthly basis to ensure we are up to date on all vegan dining options.

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:

Both Signage and a proprietary system of Menu Labeling Icons called COR Icons (COR – Circle of Responsibility)
o Farm to Fork Icon: Contains seasonal, minimally processed ingredients from local farm, ranch, or fishing boat
o Locally Crafted: Contains products crafted by a small, locally owned food business using socially and/or environmentally responsible practices.
o Seafood Watch Icon: Contains seafood that meets the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines for commercial buyers.
o Humane Icon: Contains humanely raised meat, poultry, or eggs. Must be certified by a credible third-party animal welfare organization.

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:

"Watch Your Waste" is Penn Dining's waste minimization campaign. The campaign has three different aspects: Municipal Solid Waste reduction, proper disposal of waste, and reduction of the amount of food wasted. Penn Dining works to ensure all materials in the dining areas are recyclable and that all items go in the appropriate bin, whether it is waste, recyclable, or compostable. The final aspect of the program works to encourage diners to eat all the food they take, reducing food waste.

Additional Waste Minimization efforts include the following:
o Food donations – Philabundance is Philadelphia and Delaware Valleys largest food bank. At Penn we partner with them to pick up on weekly basis as well as on demand through Food Connect App for our catering and Pret locations.
o Stem to root – Stem-to-root cooking is a staple when it comes to preventing food waste, and we strive to use every part and piece of produce in our cafes, every day. Plus, creative stem-to-root produce preparations can add interesting flavors and textures (and nutrients!) to guests’ plates.
o Batch cooking – Flavors are developed through skilled healthy cooking techniques, with the use of fresh herbs and authentic spices, not through unhealthy shortcuts of using fat, sugar, and salt. Vegetables are prepared in small batches as close to serving time as possible.
o Imperfectly delicious - Cosmetically perfect produce is not always essential for food service operations: our chefs slice and dice the produce so flavor (not appearance) is most important. Through the IDP program we engage our distributors, farmers, and chefs to identify opportunities to rescue produce from going to waste. It is important to note that this is not produce that is going bad or severely damaged, it is quality product that is going to waste because of stringent cosmetic standards that have nothing to do with flavor or food safety.

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:

In an effort to reduce food waste, Penn and its dining partner, Bon Appetit, have removed trays from dining halls. Students are encouraged to "take all they want, eat all they take" as part of Penn's campaign for waste management in the dining halls.

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:

Penn Dining along with Bon Appetit works with Philabundance to address hunger in the Philadelphia community through the donation of food which is prepared, but not served.

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:

All pre-consumer food waste is composted or digested in a mechanical digester in the dining halls. The digester works by kitchen staff putting food scraps in the digester which allows them to be put down the drain and treated in the municipal waste water system. The compost is managed by Organic Diversion, LLC, which supplies high quality compost for agricultural use.

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 pre-consumer food waste for composting is collected in the kitchens in compostable liners and deposited in green disposal bins to be hauled to an organic recycling center.

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

A brief description of the post-consumer composting program:

Green composting bins are placed at all dishware collection areas in the dining halls. Dining hall customers do not scrape their plates, but instead trained kitchen staff members scrape plates to ensure low contamination levels in the compost.

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 of Penn's four primary dining halls are equipped with dish washing stations in kitchens. Dining hall customers place dishes in designated areas where they are collected and washed by kitchen staff. Satellite, smaller "grab-and-go" dining facilities use some disposable service ware.

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:

Penn Dining operates the "Green2Go" Program in its residential dining cafes to reduce the usage of disposable to-go containers. Students on a dining plan are automatically eligible to participate. Students visit any of the participating locations to receive their first "Green2Go" container. Next time they visit, they simply return the rinsed container to one of the three participating dining cafes and exchange it for another container. Students are charged $2 for a non-reusable container which encourages use of the reusable ones. By participating in the program, Penn has eliminated two-thirds the number of disposable clamshells which would have made their way into the waste stream at Penn (estimated to be 171,000 annually). The program supports Penn’s waste minimization efforts.

The program was adapted for spring 2021 to allow for use with in our COVID protocols style of service. Customers for the semester are not charged for use and the containers are held behind the line so there is no transfer from customer to employee. They are then returned to conveniently placed receptacles to be sanitized and returned to service.

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:

Students can use their UA/Penn Dining reusable mug, to receive "buck a brew" special pricing at non-branded retail operations throughout campus: Houston Market, Joe’s Café, Mark’s Café, Lauder House Retail and Accenture Café. In addition, they can also refill at any Residential operation.

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

Bon Appetit Management Company has long been the role model for responsible sourcing in the food service industry. Some of Bon Appetit’s landmark commitments include the following:
• Supporting local agriculture companywide, since 1999
• Striving to serve only seafood that meets Seafood Watch sustainability guidelines, since 2002
• Reducing antibiotic use in farm animals, since 2003
• Switching to rBGH-free milk, since 2003
• Sourcing eggs from cage-free hens, since 2005 (precracked/liquid eggs since 2016)
• Upholding farmworkers’ rights, since 2009
• Switching to humanely raised ground beef, since 2012
• Switching to pork raised without gestation crates, since 2016

Additional Bon Appetit at the University of Pennsylvania Facts
• Bon Appetit at Penn spent $1.55 million last year with local farms, ranches, bakers, coffee roaster, and other food producers - all coming from less than 150 miles from Philadelphia.
• We have purchased from over 20 Farm to Fork vendors in the past year, including Philadelphia’s Common Market, Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op out of Lancaster, Murrays Chicken in NE Pennsylvania, and Roseda Beef in Northern Maryland.
• Many of our Locally Crafted vendors are Women or Minority owned including the Cake Jar Bakery, Crust Vegan Bakery, and Four Every Occasion.
• While the focus is on growing new business ventures we can’t forget about classic Philadelphia institutions that we purchase from including Amoroso’s Bakery, Wawa Dairy for our milk and LaColombe Coffee which we can proudly say we were amongst their first university customers in the country.
• Vinnie McManus serves as the Northeast Regional Forager – an integral role in helping to seek out small-scale producers and build regional foodsheds. The forager’s work inspires our chefs to think creatively. By dedicating staff time to discovering new suppliers, we hope to continue to help small producers scale their business.

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


The University of Pennsylvania is a major research institution, with over 3,000 degrees granted annually from twelve professional and academic schools at the Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate levels. Penn is committed to reducing emissions and energy use, as stated in the 2019 "Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0." This submission documents Penn's efforts during the FY20 year and compares them to the FY09 baseline year which corresponds with the University's "Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0." The submission relies on information related to the main, academic, West Philadelphia campus, but to more fully document efforts across the Penn system, information related to the Morris Arboretum and New Bolton Center has also been referenced and noted as outside the boundary in descriptions. The information is used to enrich examples of University efforts and is not intended to be the primary justification for credits. The responses for each of the questions and sub-questions are drawn from University materials, both internal and public documents. Each section notes the website where the information can be found.

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.