Thursday, April 15, 2010

12 of the Most Healthy and Sustainable College Cafeterias

12 of the Most Healthy and Sustainable College Cafeterias
Big-name schools are overhauling their food services by buying local and organic ingredients, catering to vegetarians, composting waste, saving energy and much more.

Healthy, Fresh and Eco-Friendly
Many of us shudder when we remember our college dorm food: rubbery macaroni, bone-dry chicken and the most tasteless excuse for "lasagna" ever dished out to paying customers. But that's changing, and today's college students expect something better. Students are also among the most engaged when it comes to caring about the environment, and more and more colleges are tapping into that energy, transforming ho-hum dining halls into happening centers for green education -- not to mention fresh, healthy food.

In an era in which fewer and fewer students are staying in the dorms (many are opting for apartment living, or -- gasp -- are choosing to live at home to save money), it also behooves schools to get with the times and offer something better than bland food and stale bagels. Going green can be a big selling point with today's talented youth, as this recent list of most eco-friendly colleges in America (or this even more recent list or this one) can attest.

Here's a look at some of the creative ways colleges are greening up their food services. Perhaps what's most exciting is that, in many cases, it is the students themselves who are asking for fresh, local, organic and vegetarian foods, as well as composting and other sustainable programs. Oftentimes, school administrators scramble to keep up with a student body's calls for change.

Yale University
On the academic front, Yale needs no introduction. But what may be less well known is the Ivy's commitment to its pioneering Sustainable Food Project. The far-reaching program began in one of the university's "residential colleges," the Harry Potteresque Berkeley College. A few years ago, the center's dining hall became a test kitchen for local, organic and vegetarian food. It became extremely popular among students, and the movement has spread across the rest of the campus.

"How the food is purchased, how it is served, and how waste is managed are all part of a sophisticated and evolving system, and Yale has taken the lead in developing a model for other universities to follow," explains Yale spokesperson Dorie Baker. This includes a small organic farm in urban New Haven, as well as community service and education in the community. Students love the fresh, local food, and Berkeley College still must limit the number of non-residents that are admitted for meals.

Duke University
Duke buys a lot of green power and encourages biking. All new construction at the Durham, North Carolina campus must be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. In fact, in 2007, the school opened the SmartHouse dorm, a LEED platinum building. Across campus, the dorms buy local and organic foods, compost and promote recycling. They also use biodegradable and minimal packaging.

Duke has done extensive surveys of dining practices, and has worked with a broad base of stakeholders to make improvements.

University of California, Berkeley

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