As Local as it Gets
For the last few years, if members of the culinary staff at the University of Texas-Austin have needed a fresh herb for a recipe, all they had to do was take a few steps outside of the dining hall to get it.
Herbs are just a few of the items being produced in the two campus gardens, with the first launched in 2011. “We realized we had this courtyard that at the time had some landscape plants in it that was in our domain,” said Robert Mayberry, campus executive chef. “We had been brainstorming for years on how we could get some food gardens here on campus. We realized that courtyard was in our area, so we attacked that one first. Once we got this up and running and somewhat fine-tuned, we realized that we had a location that was right near a loading dock that was at the time just a flower bed and a piece of lawn. That project started in late 2013 with about a year-long construction. Where we are now compared to 4 years ago is just phenomenal.”
The goal of launching the gardens was multi-pronged. “First, we wanted to be able to produce food on campus that we would be able to serve on campus to our students,” he said. “Secondly, we wanted to make sure that there were teaching platforms for the students. We didn’t want it to be somewhere where the students couldn’t actually see it happen. We wanted to involve students from the beginning. We also wanted to involve the chefs, and give them an opportunity to, for instance, go out and harvest some bay leaves for a soup they are cooking, or some fresh herbs. It was definitely a food garden from the beginning.” ...
Xavier Cuts Waste
Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, has worked hard to reduce the waste it sends to landfills, so much so that it was recognized this year by the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Gold Sustainability award in the Waste Management category.
“It just proves that all the work was worth it, and hopefully we can get this to keep going forward,” said Ed Devoid, senior director of Dining Services with Chartwells, the campus foodservice provider. “My own quote is ‘There are a million reasons why the stuff can’t be done, and there is only one reason to do it, and that is because it is right.’”
One key reason why the school won the award, according to Devoid, was the recent installation of two EcoVim dehydrators from OnSite Waste Solutions. “We have two units, and each one is capable of handling 250 pounds of material per cycle. It extracts all of the water out of the mix, and we end up with basically a highly concentrated waste product that looks like coffee grounds. It is actually pretty dry. We collect it all and the physical plant brings it up to our urban farm, which has earth tubs. They mix it in with everything else they collect, and they produce some compost they can use all over campus.”
Sustainability, An American Value
Sustainability and social responsibility are very important aspects of the dining program at American University (AU) in Washington, D.C.
“Sustainability and social responsibility are the cornerstone platforms of our program,” said Ken Chadwick, director of Dining with Aramark, the campus foodservice provider. “We don’t look at it as ad hoc, one station, one meal. Basically, everything we do at AU has a sustainability and social responsibility aspect to it. That is the foundation of what we build our program upon — understanding that we do serve massive volumes of people, so that can be challenging; understanding that our geography makes local purchasing challenging. We don’t use geography and seasonality as an excuse to water down our program. Where other people will use that, we will be challenged by that to try to continue to really focus our program toward that end, which is the responsible use of product, which is food. Not only is it tied into our sustainable platform of how we purchase things, but for us, it is for the full trajectory of that food.”
Reducing pre-consumer waste is a very important part of the program. “We are also very, very focused on pre-consumer waste reduction, by training our employees, by constantly having waste buckets on top of stations so we can clearly see what is going into the waste and see why it is there,” he said. “We reinforce that with daily meetings with them to understand the best ways to keep waste to a minimum. We have a sustainability committee that is led by Kyle [Johnson, sustainability chef], and it is attended by the majority of our employees. There, they also share areas where we can make things better. It is a full team effort. It is really the prism that we look at our program through.”
There has been a bakery on the campus of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., as long as the college has been in existence. Since the college was the first college chartered under the United States of America in 1783, that is a long time.
As was probably the case 232 years ago, students are enjoying the treats coming from the bakery – even though the current environment of eating healthier wasn’t something that students had to worry about in those days. “Our pastries are very popular given the environment where people are exercising more and more nutritionally conscious, paying attention to what they are taking in,” said Errol Huffman, director of Dining Services. “I think about one-third of the Dickinson student body is involved in either organized sports or intramural-type activities at a high level. There is a lot of interest in eating well, but at the same time, they don’t deny themselves the pleasure of Kay’s baking.”
The Kay that Huffman is referring to is Kay Yeruski, head baker for the college, who has worked at the school for more than 20 years. The bakery has a staff of four fulltime employees. “Our day starts at 3 a.m,” she said. “We make fresh donuts every day for the students, as well as muffins, sometimes coffee cakes, apple fritters. That is usually what is just for our breakfasts in the dining halls. Then we have some cash operations throughout campus. We have The Quarry [a campus café], and they get muffins, apple fritters, puff pastries, and also our other locations get the same desserts. We do eclairs sometimes and lots of cookies also.” ...