Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 72.78
Liaison Dennis Cochrane
Submission Date Feb. 18, 2021

STARS v2.2

Virginia Tech
OP-8: Sustainable Dining

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Blake Bensman
Sustainability Manager
Dining Services
"---" 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?:
Yes

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

Homefield Farm is a partnership between Dining Services and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the only certified organic operation owned by a university in Virginia. The six-acre, student-run farm is located eight miles west of the Blacksburg campus and provides about 50,000 pounds of fresh produce to dining centers and Homefield's farm stand on campus.

The on-campus farm stand is a new initiative of Homefield Farm and a collaboration between Dining Services, the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Operated entirely by students, the stand is open on a consistent schedule, near the main entrance to Turner Place at Lavery Hall. Seven students, all enrolled in the new Farm Market Field Study course, take shifts managing the stand, which sells nearly 30 different types of vegetables.

Monthly, students sell produce out of the stand. Then, they reconvene to discuss sales, review lessons learned, and plan strategies for the future. Professors from across the university have visited the class to offer guidance on the operations.


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?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-themed food outlet:

Farms is one of Virginia Tech Dining Services' signature units located in Owens Food Court. Farms serves up signature local, organic, and sustainable dishes. Customers will find a seasonal menu using produce, meat, and dairy from the Dining Services garden at Homefield Farm, as well as other local producers.

Farms: Here the focus is on organic, local, and sustainably produced foods, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Friday.


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?:
Yes

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

Farms, located in Owens Food Court, serves exclusively local, organic, and sustainable foods. Blacksburg Bagels, founded by Virginia Tech alumni, can also be found at Farms. Deet's Place at Dietrick Hall purchases direct-trade coffee from a sustainable coffee plantation in Nicaragua and serves a wide selection of organic teas. Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, Virginia provides several locations with extra creamy, soft serve ice cream. Local coffee producer, Red Rooster Coffee (Floyd, VA), is also featured in Owen's Hall.


Estimated percentage of total food and beverage expenditures on products from disadvantaged businesses, social enterprises, and/or local SMEs:
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Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host low impact dining events or promote plant-forward options?:
Yes

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

A brief description of the vegan dining program:

Please refer to our Dining Services Online Menu for a comprehensive listing of diverse, complete-protein vegan options available to every member of the campus community at every meal.

http://foodpro.dsa.vt.edu/menus/

* Vegetarian Items ** Vegan Items


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?:
Yes

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

Sustainability is at the heart of our marketing efforts within our dining halls. We have made it a priority to provide signage related to the following:

- Plant-forward meal signage
- "Choose to reuse" reusable containers, water bottles, and spork marketing
- Local sourcing signage related to our 9-acre Homefield Farm (campus produce growing farm)
- Campus sourced ingredients, such as beef, chicken, eggs, and cheeses
- Highlighting local vendors in our dining halls whose items are featured on our menus


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?:
Yes

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

Virginia Tech Dining Services is currently looking into ways to minimize food waste and effectively track pre-production and post-consumer waste. Currently, our chefs log pre-production food waste using waste logs and enter the data into our FoodPro system.

The Dining Services Sustainability Manager is in the process of crafting a plan for effectively capturing pre-production food waste via a dining unit specific scorecard. In addition, Dining Services is planning on beginning unit by unit composting waste audits, in order to evaluate which items are entering the compost waste stream and how to better manage materials flowing into compost and trash.

Currently, the Office of Sustainability "Waste Interns" and the Dining Services Sustainability Manager have partnered to being an initial dining hall waste log analysis. The analysis focuses on items such as month to month waste log evaluation and generating summaries of past data. The goal of this project is to understand waste log trends and suggest improvements for Dining Services waste management.


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?:
Yes

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

After a post-consumer waste study in the spring of 2008 finding that nearly 30% less food is wasted when trays are not readily offered. As a result, Virginia Tech Dining Services removed trays from our all-you-care-to-eat facilities beginning summer 2008 during the freshman student orientation. The trays were removed during the summer so that incoming freshman students would never “miss” trays when they arrived on campus. Trays are still offered for handicapped guests or other special requests, and are still available at a la carte facilities, where they have never been used on a wide scale.

Washington Post article about trayless dining programs, featuring Virginia Tech: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/17/AR2011021703343.html

Virginia Tech News article about trayless dining: http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2008/06/2008-421.html


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

A brief description of the food donation program:

The Campus Kitchen program is a partnership between VT Engage and Virginia Tech Dining Services. Campus Kitchen works to increase food access and to increase food access and to reduce food waste by redirecting unserved food from on-campus dining centers to hunger relief agencies in the New River Valley. Since launching in fall 2015, we have:

- Diverted over 192,000 pounds of quality, unserved food from campus to community. Curious how much that is? Well, the average female African elephant is 6,600 pounds - so that's 29 elephants!
- Worked with six hunger relief agencies and other nonprofits: Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread, the Giving Tree Food Pantry, Plenty! Farm and Food Bank, New River Valley Agency on Aging, Warm Hearth Village, and the YMCA after school program.
- Worked with nine Virginia Tech dining centers: D2, Deet's Place, West End Market, Owens Food Court, Hokie Grill, Au Bon Pain, Southgate, Burger '37, and Turner Place.


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

A brief description of the food materials diversion program:

Yes, our waste food oil is picked up by Valley Proteins, which processes the waste into feed and biofuel products.


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

A brief description of the pre-consumer composting program:

Virginia Tech began composting its post and pre-consumer compostable waste using a third-party composter called Royal Oak Farm. The university has composted more than 4,000 tons of organic waste and sends about 500 tons of organic waste to the farm annually.

Virginia Tech has 17 dining services on its campus is Blacksburg, which all collect organic waste to be sent to the farm.

Dining Services buys back a portion of the compost to be used for small grounds projects around the campus.

5,000 tons of organic waste sent from our facilities to be composted since 2009.

https://dining.vt.edu/sustainability/waste_minimization.html

https://wset.com/news/local/on-virginia-farm-microbes-turn-organic-waste-into-compost


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

A brief description of the post-consumer composting program:

The same composting program described above applies for post-consumer composting too.


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

A brief description of the reusable service ware program:

All of our dining units have reusable service ware for "dine in meals."


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)?:
Yes

A brief description of the compostable containers and service ware:

We want YOU to choose to reuse!

Dining Services has partnered with Student Government Association, Housing and Residence Life, and the Office of Sustainability to offer an innovative Reusable To-Go (R2G) program that makes Virginia Tech a more sustainable place to live and work.
Reusable To-Go Containers.

Using Virginia Tech’s free Reusable To-Go program is a great way to save money and reduce waste. Compostable clamshells cost 25 cents apiece, and they often end up in the landfill. Join us in doing the "green" thing and get your food in a free R2G container! All students, faculty and staff have free access to this program regardless of meal plan status.

Like a public library our containers are free to use, but must be returned so that future Hokies can use them, too!

How does the program work?
Step 1: Ask for your to go food in a free Reusable To-Go (R2G) container.
Step 2: Take your food to go! Once you finish your food, we appreciate it if you empty and rinse your container.
Step 3: Bring your container to a return station in Turner Place, DXpress study area, Hokie Grill, or Owens Food Court. You can also make returns to dish return stations in West End Market, Turner Place, and Owens Food Court.
Step 4: Repeat!

In addition, we provide third party certified compostable clamshell containers for to-go meals, which works in conjunction with our on-site composting program.

For more information about our reusable container program, check out this link:

https://dining.vt.edu/about/Reusable_To_Go_Program.html


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?:
Yes

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

See the above information (Reusable containers are free with meal purchases and compostable clamshells are 25 cents a piece).

Klean Kanteen Travel Mugs
Being green is easy when you have one of Dining Services' exclusive Klean Kanteen travel mugs! These leak-proof bottles are double-wall insulated, which means they work with all your favorite hot and cold drinks. Custom Klean Kanteens are available for purchase. Students can get free water when you use this bottle, and they also come with a $0.25 discount on all self-serve soda and self-serve drip coffee.

We also allow students to use their own reusable water bottles for water refills at our soda stations.

Klean Kanteen travel mug with reusable to-go container and spork at Virginia Tech
Sporks

Be a sustainability superhero and help combat single-use waste! In addition to water bottles, Dining Services also sells custom humangear sporks. They are perfect for to-go meals on campus, and durable enough for off-campus adventures (picnic at the Cascades, anyone?). Sold at the cash registers in most dining centers.


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

For the estimated percentage of total food and beverage expenditures on products from disadvantaged businesses, social enterprises, and/or local SMEs (0-100%):

This is a work in progress for our Dining Services Sustainability Manager and Office of Sustainability Interns. Sustainable supply chain measures are "what's cooking" in a brand new collaborative project between the VT Office of Sustainability and Virginia Tech Dining Services. This new project is an effort to create an internal database of locally sourced, sustainably or ethically sourced, plant-based, vegetarian/vegan, compostable, and recyclable items.

The purpose of the project is to identify/tag inventory items as local, recyclable, and/or compostable when applicable within the FoodPro inventory management system.

Goals for the project include:
- Tag new and current inventory items
- Determine the current % of Dining Services local purchases
- Create a process for tagging new items going into FoodPro
- Engage with Food Production Managers to obtain updated purchasing lists and use their knowledge to assist with tagging
- Create an internal database of locally sourced, sustainably or ethically sourced, plant-based, vegetarian/vegan, compostable, and recyclable items.

Intern learning outcomes:
- Learn about local and sustainable products and their attributes
- Better understand sustainability terminology and its importance within the foodservice industry
- Obtain data management and data entry skills
- Interpret quantitative and qualitative for large datasets
- Learn more about sustainable procurement within the university dining industry


Website URL where information about the sustainable dining programs is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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We believe in a sustainable future for Virginia Tech.

At Dining Services, sustainability is a core part of our mission. Our vision for sustainable campus dining is part of how we design our dining centers, source our ingredients, and our commitment to recycling and composting programs. We believe our green initiatives positively impact our Blacksburg campus and the broader community.

Virginia Tech Dining Services is an independently run campus dining operation.

Here’s how our innovative programs work.

Farm to Table

One of our campus sources is Homefield Farm, a partnership between Dining Services and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The six-acre farm grows fruits, vegetables, and herbs specifically for Virginia Tech Dining Services. It serves as a site of experiential student learning, interdisciplinary research, and community outreach. Look for signs in the dining centers letting you know what dishes have ingredients sourced from our farm. Students even have opportunities to get involved through classes, volunteer opportunities, and summer farm work. Discover more about Homefield Farm and how to get involved by visiting their website: dining.vt.edu/sustainability/Homefield farm.

Local Sourcing

To reduce food miles and support our local economy, Virginia Tech Dining Services strives to bring you food that is produced as close to campus as possible. Many of the foods we served are even grown and produced at Virginia Tech! We define local as products that are grown or produced within 250 miles of campus or in Virginia. We also try to source other sustainable products, such as Fair Trade certified and organic items. Virginia Tech Dining Services works with a wide variety of local growers and producers. Our website includes a map so you can learn about some of our local partners. Our campus sourced foods include Homefield Farm (described above), Virginia Tech Meat Center, and campus-raised eggs and milk. You can find more details about each of these sources by visiting our website. Farms, located in Owens Food Court, serves exclusively local, organic, and sustainable foods. Blacksburg Bagels, founded by Virginia Tech alumni, can also be found at Farms. Deet’s Place at Dietrick Hall purchases direct-trade coffee from a sustainable coffee plantation in Nicaragua and serves a wide selection of organic teas. Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, Virginia provides several locations with extra creamy, soft serve ice cream.

Recycling & Composting

Virginia Tech Dining Services is committed to minimizing our environmental impact through composting, recycling, food diversion, reusables, and tray less dining. Our composting efforts now include all of our dining centers on campus. Royal Oak Farm, based in Evington, Virginia processes Virginia Tech’s food waste and turns it into compost. As a result, Dining Services has diverted over seven million pounds of food waste from the landfill. Paper, cardboard, and plastics #1-2 are recyclable in our dining centers and across campus. Our recycling stream is picked up by Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority in Christiansburg, Virginia. Today, Dining Services partners with Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech to donate quality excess food to local food banks. To date Campus Kitchen has diverted more than 90 tons of food. Dining Services supports eliminating single-use items from the waste stream through our innovative reusable to-go program. We also allow students to use their own reusable water bottles for water refills at our soda stations. In 2008, after learning that nearly 30 percent less food is wasted when trays are not readily offered in dining centers, Dining Services removed trays from our all-you care-to-eat facilities. This has helped to save water and prevent food waste. As of spring 2018 Virginia Tech Dining Services is 100% polystyrene free! We worked with national brands such as Chick-Fil-A and Dunkin’, as well as our original campus concepts, to eliminate foam containers from our waste stream.

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.