Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sustainability in Practice-Food Service

Sustainability, we’ve all heard the word and as students, we hear on a daily basis but what does it mean? How does it affect university students around the world and specifically, WSU students?
WSU has a sustainability initiative that many departments and areas on campus support, one being the dining centers and coffee stands around campus.
Dining Services buys fair trade and organic drip coffee from a local roaster by the name of Thomas Hammer. This coffee is offered in all three dining centers as well as the espresso bar in Carlita’s restaurant located in the Compton Union Building. They also partner with Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee, both of which have well-known fair trade and sustainability programs.
In terms of locally grown foods, Dining Services say they only use flour from Shepherd’s Grain; an alliance of local farmers committed to sustainable agricultural practices. Shepherd’s Grain also supplies Dining Services with lentils and garbanzo beans which are used in some of their signature recipes, according to the Dining Services Web site.  Pre-made bakery items are supplied by Hearthbread Bakehouse out of Spokane and they also only use Shepherd’s Grain flour.
Dining Services also advertise, via their website, that their potatoes come from Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities and wild rice from St. Marie, Idaho. The majority of the beef used comes from Angus Meats in Spokane and chicken is supplied by Draper Valley Farms of Mount Vernon, WA.
Organic berries, used mainly in the signature cobblers, come from Walla Walla and other organic fruits come from WSU Orchards and Tuky Organic Farm on campus.
I commend WSU dining services for their sustainable and organic food practices, as well their supplying compostable tableware.To-go utensils are made from potatoe products and are compostable in just a few weeks.  To-go dishware is compostable and recyclable as well. “Green cups,” made from corn materials, are used in every dining center, Carlita’s and campus espresso bars. The lids and straws for these cups are also compostable.
Again, I support the steps WSU Dining Services has taken towards more sustainability and organic-minded food service but I also question how often these practices are put into routine use. When dishwashing employees clear trays, do they sort the compostable silverware out? Are their compost bins in every dining center and espresso bar? What sort of recycling practices (paper plates, milk cartons and plastic bottles) are daily occurrences? Offering these compostable and recyclable items is a step in the right direction but I challenge the day-to-day practices and implementation by employees. Hopefully an investigative piece will highlight these issues and provide answers to these questions and more.

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