Food is an integral part of sustainability. Where and how it is produced, how workers are treated and paid, how animals are raised, the chemical inputs and waste outputs, the nutritional value of products and the need to preserve farmland and communities are all factors that need to be taken into consideration. RIT’s Dining Services has begun to make noticeable strides in this area.
Dining Services purchases local, seasonal produce when possible and purchases products locally manufactured in upstate New York. Our dairy supplier, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. is a food and beverage cooperative owned by dairy farmers in the Western New York State area and local coffee suppliers, Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters and The Coffee Connection, are served in a number of dining locations.
Using locally produced food significantly cuts transportation costs and reduces associated carbon emissions. Produce from the RIT Community Garden is incorporated into our menus as it is available. The enterprising staff at Gracie’s dining center even planted an indoor herb garden in the dining area with a variety of herbs that will be used in their dishes. It doesn’t get any more local that that!
A majority of dining locations offer Fair Trade coffee. Fair Trade products ensure that the growers and laborers who produced the product were provided fair living wages and labor conditions. In addition to food items, The Market at Global Village features a variety of Fair Trade gift items as well.
A campaign that originated at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Meatless Mondays is now a global initiative that challenges individuals to enjoy meatless meals one day a week. The goal: reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet. Find out more about Dining Services’ participation in Meatless Mondays at smartnutrition.rit.edu and connect with Dining Services on Facebook for featured Meatless Monday dishes.
All milk sold by Dining Services is rbST hormone-free and antibiotic-free.
Dining Services has expanded the number of locations that offer organic foods, which include The Market at Global Village, Bytes, Artesano Bakery and Café, Café & Market at Crossroads, The Corner Store, and Sol’s Underground. Gluten free products are also available at several dining locations. Visit smartnutrition.rit.edu for more information on special dietary foods and healthy options available in all dining locations.
As demand increases for seafood around the globe, many fisheries are stressed and on the verge of collapse. Recognizing this issue, Dining Services purchases sustainably harvested seafood from suppliers with clear sustainability standards.
Waste Reduction Efforts
In dining operations waste comes from product packaging, food preparation, uneaten scraps, napkins and increasingly, from disposable food ware. Dining Services is combating waste generation through a number of approaches.
Last year, Dining Services gave approximately 36 tons of pre-consumer organic material to a local farm for use as compost. This saved 36 tons of waste from entering a landfill.
Cooking Oil Recycling
Used frying oil from our dining facilities (approximately 18,000 pounds annually) is sold to a vendor for refinement and production of bio-diesel fuel.
Reduction of Polystyrene
Dining Services has minimized the use of polystyrene (Styrofoam) from our locations and have replaced it with recyclable containers made from polypropylene (number 5 plastic).
All Dining Services account transactions, including meal plan usage and Tiger Bucks, can be managed and viewed at eservices.rit.edu. Additionally, a number of our services are offered online including Special Delivery (exclusive gift service provided to parents/families), WebFood (online food ordering at The Commons), Dining Express, Brick City Catering and RITZ Sports Zone’s customizable online ordering system. These online services have enabled Dining Services to be 99.9% paperless!
Reusable Mug Program
Guests receive 10 cents off any hot or cold beverage purchased at any dining location when they bring their own reusable cup/mug.
Tray-Less at Gracie’s
Gracie’s, our largest resident dining hall, is a tray-less facility. This initiative is credited with approximately 30% food waste reduction. We also are consuming less water and chemicals due to trays being eliminated from the washing cycle. See related article: Without Cafeteria Trays, Colleges Find Savings
Environmentally Sensitive Products
Careful and intentional product selection is an important part of any sustainability initiative. Dining Services is always looking for opportunities to use environmentally preferable products.
Chlorine-Free and Biodegradable Products
The Ritz SportsZone, Sol’s Underground, Ctrl Alt Deli, and Artesano Bakery and Café use EcoCraft™ products made from recycled natural kraft paper using an FDA-approved chlorine-free manufacturing process and a soy-blended eco-wax, reducing dependence on the use of petroleum based products.
New biodegradable cleaning products and chemical-free floor cleaning equipment contribute to a healthy and safe environment for both guests and staff. The machines use only ionized water and no chemicals. The ionized (charged) water helps to loosen dirt and grease from the floors without using any chemicals.
Dining Services also uses the Apex ware washing system from Ecolab. The cleaning product contains no phosphates and the packaging is very minimal. Each dish machine has a computerized monitoring system which tracks usage and efficiency. This allows each machine to be adjusted to improve product, water and energy usage.
What You Can Do
Dining Services is working hard to advance our sustainability efforts and there is a lot that you can do to help.
While we are converting to more sustainable carry-out container options, dining in and using washable ware is still the most sustainable choice.
Whether dining in or taking out, please be mindful of product and food waste – take only what you will eat and what you need. Use your own bag and mug.
When you are finished eating don’t forget to recycle! Single stream recycling bins can be found in all dining locations to recycle many food and meal containers and packaging. You can also use the on-campus bottle return to get your 5 cent deposit back from beverage bottles.
Dining Services offers a number of services and resources through our Smart Nutrition program to promote healthy eating and to accommodate various dietary restrictions and preferences. Services and resources include:
- NetNutrition, Dining Services’ online tool for determining nutritional information and ingredients for foods and meals served in many dining locations. NetNutrition also allows guests to filter menu by food allergen, such as milk and peanuts.
- Dining Services offers a wide selection of healthy foods and foods for those with dietary restrictions in all of our dining locations. Daily menus at all dining locations include a number of international cuisines, as well as special dietary items such as gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, and Halal. View our side-by-side comparison chart for a full list of offerings by dining location.
- Daily specials and grab-and-go items available throughout many dining locations include custom nutritional labels that include the item’s caloric, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, and protein content, as well as allergen information. Also included on nutritional labels are new Smart Seals identifying Healthy Options, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low Sodium, Vegetarian, and Vegan options. Smart Seals assist in the easy identification of healthy food choices along with foods that comply with certain dietary restrictions.
- Mary Anne McQuay, Dining Services registered dietitian, is available to answer your questions about healthy eating, food choices, ingredients used in foods served on campus, special dietary needs, and general nutrition inquiries. You can e-mail Mary Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a one-on-one appointment and visit our Ask Our Dietitian page for more information.
- Smart Eating 101 is a series of educational nutrition sessions that showcase healthy options available in Dining Services locations through the presentation of food and cooking demonstrations, tastings, and exhibits.
Grow Your Own or Buy Local
Did you know that after it is harvested, produce loses nutrients as it ages? Eating locally grown foods ensures that you are getting the fresh, flavorful food with the highest nutrient content possible. It also helps to support and grow the local economy. Find out how you can take advantage of all of the opportunities to enjoy local foods at RIT.
Have an idea or want to help Dining Services further their sustainability efforts? Contact Kurt Ingerick, Director of Facilities, Sustainability & Conservation for Student Auxiliary Services.