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New CSU Working Group to Make Affordable Healthy Food a Reality for Students

By Newswise

2018.04.10-CSU Food Working Group-IMAGE

The first-ever California State Universities’ Food Systems Working Group (CSU FSWG) kicked off last month, and all hands are on deck when it comes to serving CSU students healthier food.

The inaugural meeting on March 14th was attended by a committee of students, professors, technical experts, dining management staff, food producers and administrators from all 23 campuses and respective communities. Their goal is to get more ‘real food’ on CSU campuses.

Real food, defined as local- and community-based, fair trade, ecologically sound and humane, is increasingly being sought after by students.

“Students are becoming more and more sustainability-minded,” said Corinne Knapp, associate director of dining services at Chico State. “They want to know where their food comes from and they want to feel connected to the farmers that harvest their food. Clean ingredients with clear labels and things like fair trade coffee are important to them. We’re responding to their demand.”

The demand was amplified through a 2017 vote by the CSSA, the collective voice of the CSU’s 484,000 students, to participate in the Real Food Challenge – a national effort for universities to shift 20 percent of their food budget toward real food by 2020. The CSU FSWG aligned their goals with the values of the challenge, striving to not only provide healthier food options on campus but also to invest more in California’s local farmers.

“There’s usually an added cost when it comes to purchasing from smaller, local farmers,” said Clement Tsang, assistant coordinator for the Real Food Challenge. “In turn, only 2 percent of California’s total food budget is spent on smaller to midsize farms across the state. This initiative aims to enrich our local communities while reducing costs for students who want to eat healthy.”

Currently, eight CSUs have a real food system in place. Through partnerships with local farmers and a joint purchasing agreement with the University of California (UC), CSU campuses are implementing ways to make affordable real food a reality for students.

Chico State’s dining services, for example, was looking at $23,000 in added costs per year in order to make a switch to serving cage-free eggs. Through the joint purchasing agreement with the UC, Chico State was able to make a deal that minimized the cost to only $3,000 more per year.

For transparency, all campuses participating in the Real Food Challenge are audited on their progress through the Real Food Calculator. The calculator tracks how much each campus spends on real food versus conventional food and is intended to serve as a tool for discussion between students and CSU administrators.

CSU FSWG meets every other month to make healthy food options a cohesive statewide effort. Included in the working group are CSU leaders involved in the Basic Needs Initiative. Students, faculty, campus administrators, local food producers and experts are welcome to join the group.

Read the full story here.

ASU, Partners Commit to be a Fair Trade-Designated University

By Peter Northfelt

Chantel Lawrence (right) and Tracie Smith have a stir fry prepared just for them in the Barrett Honors College dining facility.

Chantel Lawrence (right) and Tracie Smith have a stir fry prepared just for them in the Barrett Honors College dining facility.

Arizona State University President Michael Crow sent an open letter on March 28 to the ASU community committing ASU to be the largest fair trade university in the U.S. The commitment is in partnership with Aramark and Follett.

Fair trade-certified products are produced with fair labor practices and environmental protections. ASU joins 47 other universities and 533 university retailers that pledge to provide fair trade food items like coffee, tea, chocolate and other products including textiles.

As part of the commitment, the following locations must provide at least two fair trade food options:

• Aramark

• Atlasta

• Sun Devil Campus Stores

• Sun Devil Dining

Participating vendors must provide signage and education about fair trade certified products. Aramark already provides fair trade resources when it caters campus events.

“This designation demonstrates institutional commitment to fair labor, global connection and supporting student initiatives,” said Nichol Luoma, University Business Services associate vice president and chief sustainability officer. “It furthers the university’s sustainable procurement policies and procedures.”

ASU School of Sustainability graduate student and Aramark intern Hannah Trigg invested three months in drafting the fair trade commitment and implementing most of its provisions, and then partnered with University Sustainability Practices for the final steps in securing the commitment. Biological sciences junior Daniella Simari continues to lead tabling events, education and outreach.

Read the full story here.

Member Spotlight: University of Texas at Austin

For this month’s Membership Spotlight, we’re going to take a closer look at one of our most accomplished and innovative members—The University of Texas at Austin (Longhorns).  The Longhorns have not only led the way in advancing the sports greening movement in the collegiate sector but have shed light on some new ways to engage stakeholders, students, and sports not traditionally mentioned in the greater sport and sustainability landscape.

2017 was a great year for the Longhorns as they made huge strides in their zero waste program, leading the charge in sustainability around baseball and softball. After successfully achieving zero waste during a “Zero Waste Weekend” series at both sports since 2014, the Longhorns successfully achieved an entire zero waste baseball season at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Lauren Lichterman, Operations and Sustainability Coordinator for Texas Athletics, explained how baseball and softball were a natural fit for sustainability programming and “a great start for best practice development.”

Lauren Lichterman & Bevo the Longhorn

Lauren Lichterman & Hook ‘Em the Longhorn

“Our baseball stadium has a capacity of 7,000 which is comparatively more manageable from a waste standpoint than our 102,000-person football facility,” Lichterman says. “We have the same concessionaire at both facilities and they have done a fantastic job over the years of switching their products to adhere to our zero waste standards. Being able to control the waste stream in this way is crucial to being able to achieve zero waste at any of our facilities.”

Of course, these successes don’t happen overnight, and while programs should strive for zero-waste seasons, patience is important.  It took three years to achieve a zero-waste baseball season according to Lichterman. “We spent three years tweaking the system not only from season-to-season, but also from game-to-game. We worked with all stakeholders from fans to staff to sponsors to operational partners to take advantage of every opportunity to improve.” Creating success stories in sports like baseball and softball can build a proof of concept to legitimize your work, recruit sponsors, and have a functional model for approaching bigger sports like football.

They continued their success in zero waste at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium during the 2017 football season.  Before the football season began, the school’s sustainability team set out a few goals in their quest achieve zero waste:

  • Figure out a system to sort waste on-site during the game
  • Increase the number of volunteers to help educate fans and sort the waste
  • Create a food recovery program to donate unused food from gameday
  • Develop a communications plan to share our sustainability story

While these weren’t their only goals, putting forth a strategic plan is a wonderful way to organize your stakeholder network around actionable objectives that can help track, measure, and guide your future sustainability efforts.

Their efforts were a smashing success, and they achieved many of their initial objectives, including:

  • Recruiting almost 700 people to donate 2,700 volunteer hours over the course of the season
  • Donating over 3,000 meals to Central Texas families in need through their food recovery program
  • Decreasing landfill waste by over 200,000 pounds
  • Developing a unique social media presence through @TxSportsSustain (twitter) and @bleedorangelivegreen (Instagram).

The Longhorns also increased their overall diversion to about 50%, which is no small feat for a stadium holding over 100,000 fans on any given gameday. They plan to continue their ambitious path towards zero was by targeting a 70% diversion rate next season.

Sustainability Squad at The University of Texas at Austin

Sustainability Squad at The University of Texas at Austin

2018 is sure to be another exciting year for the Longhorns, with ample plans to further expand their sport and sustainability success. Lichterman has taken us behind the curtain about what we may expect in the future, including “creating water and energy conservation programs which aim to close the loop in some of their current operations.”

We’re all thrilled to see these projects develop and support the Longhorns in their pursuit of Zero Waste and achieving other sustainability objectives.

To learn more about their efforts and how to get involved visit:

Videoboard image at a University of Texas at Austin football game during the 2017 season.

Videoboard image at a University of Texas at Austin football game during the 2017 season.

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