Working in collaboration with student groups, contractors, and other campus departments, Carolina Dining Services (CDS) is proactively reducing its environmental footprint, expanding its purchases of locally produced food, and raising campus awareness of sustainable practices.
Serving an average of 13,000 meals per weekday during the school year, CDS spends $7 million annually on food and beverages. Twenty-five percent of total purchases are from producers within a 150 mile radius. Meat, seafood, and groceries account for 25 percent of local purchases; milk and dairy account for 20 percent; baked goods 15 percent; and fresh and frozen produce 7 percent.
Fall 2011 saw a completely renovated Lenoir dining ahll, with 200 new seats, an on-site dietician, and new electronic signage to show food offerings' nutritional and allergen information.
In partnership with the student group Fair, Local, Organic Food (FLO), CDS and its contractor have invested considerable effort researching and seeking out local and sustainable food options. Fortunately, two large organic wholesale distributors have started up in North Carolina, greatly reducing the administrative burden associated with buying from individual producers. Wholesalers help to ensure consistently high quality and volume.
Procuring sustainably produced meat at a competitive price is challenging. Local, grass-fed pork and beef sell at a considerable premium and are raised by small-scale producers who may not have access to the type of processing facilities required by large, safety-conscious contractors. Yet the health and environmental benefits of local, pasture-fed meat—and the enthusiasm of students— have resulted in exploratory purchases. Grass-fed beef hamburgers, for instance, are now available two days per week, once at Lenoir and once at the Rams Head Dining Hall. Made-to-order eggs from cage-free chickens are a breakfast option at both Lenoir and Rams Head.
Six seasonally themed, local meals were offered in the dining halls during the 2010–2011 school year. At other times, locally obtained products are highlighted with signage. The Friday Center conference facility has also increased its local purchasing. When booking events through Carolina Catering, it is possible to specify both a local menu and a zero-waste event.
The food sold by vendors on Lenoir’s Mainstreet is not included in the CDS purchasing totals, but last year saw the launch of 1.5.0, a restaurant committed to serving only the best locally-grown ingredients. The barbecue shack sources local, grass-fed pork, raised without antibiotics or hormones, and purchases local, often organic, produce. The Mediterranean Deli purchases all of its produce from local farms. Coffee shops operated by CDS on-campus promote and serve Fair Trade Coffee.
Interactive map of sustainable food options on campus
Carolina Dining Services - http://www.dining.unc.edu
Fair, Local, Organic Food - http://flofood.weebly.com/