The Alumni Connection

The Alumni Connection Dining Services at North Carolina State seeks ways to boost student perception of sustainability program.

Signage points out local suppliers.

RALEIGH, N.C.—Dining Services staff at North Carolina State University believe they have the best sustainability program nobody knows about. So staff dietitian Lisa Eberhart, R.D., is leading an effort to change that by highlighting university alumni who are making the program work.

“My Roots are at NC State” has been developed to call attention to things the department has already been doing but to little fanfare. These include purchasing locally grown, raised or manufactured items, and partnering with North Carolina growers, producers and manufacturers, many of whom either are run by or employ the university’s graduates.

“We conducted a survey with students and discovered that they didn’t realize what we were doing with sustainability, even though we did a lot of things and spent a lot of money doing so,” says Eberhart. “So we decided to highlight alumni who were helping us achieve our goals, to try to get students to see that they could probably work in these industries, and to see that what we purchase and the different companies we partner with really are from North Carolina.”

The campaign has included posters, visits from alumni and an All Carolinas Meal, held last month. The first alumnus profiled was Amy Brooks, a 2007 graduate whose family, Brooks Contractor, takes all of Dining Services’s waste and composts it.

“We are completely compostable in both the front and the back of the house in all our dining halls,” says Eberhart, “and we really wanted our students to know that we do go the extra mile for sustainability and that we do use an NC State alum’s composting facility. We are going to highlight other alumni in the same way, with posters along the walls in the halls. Our goal is to highlight a different alum every month, and there is no shortage of people willing to be profiled.”

Another marketing effort Dining Services has done is to erect a large chalkboard in each of the dining halls that lists all local products and where they come from.
“Now, students will say to us things like, ‘That’s where I grew up,’ or ‘I know where that is’ or ‘My friend’s father works for that company,’” Eberhart notes. “It’s made a real connection with them.”

Eberhart even hired a recent graduate, Chris Dunham, to help administer the program.

“Chris, who was graduating with a degree in food science, was already working for me as an intern,” she explains. “I hired him originally to source local products for us, and the job has morphed into this.” Dining Services has applied for a grant from the state that would fund the program—and Dunham’s job—for two more years. “I think it’s a really good idea to have the state fund this, because we are doing our part to promote local products and local businesses.”  

Whether all of this is having a meaningful impact on students isn’t yet known. “We have hired the company that did the original survey to do it again,” says Eberhart, “and we hope we will be able to use the results to measure our success.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

In an effort to reduce turnover, lunchroom supervisors at elementary schools in a Chicago-area district will see an increase in pay at the start of the new school year, the Chicago Tribune reports .

The board of education for Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 on Aug. 8 approved a proposal to increase wages for those supervisors, boosting starting pay from from $12 to $14 an hour. Returning employees who already earn above the new rate will see an hourly increase of 2%.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Joel Martin said he hopes the increased wages will allow...

Ideas and Innovation
coffee shop trailor graphic

A familiar face is coming to the roads of Rutgers University this fall: the Starbucks mermaid. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based school is testing a Starbucks truck throughout the upcoming semester, NJ.com reports . The company began testing trucks on college campuses in 2014, and now has mobile locations at Arizona State University, James Madison University in Virginia, East Carolina University in North Carolina and Sacramento State in California.

The trucks will serve the full lineup of Starbucks beverages that’s available at the outlet’s brick-and-mortar location at Rutgers,...

Industry News & Opinion

A study from Virginia Tech has found a connection between school meal participation and obesity in students. From data that predates the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act , the findings raise questions over whether nutrition standards go far enough.

The research evaluated data from 1998 to 2007, comparing first through eighth grade students who partook in free and reduced-price lunch and those who qualified but opted out. Wen You, associate professor in the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, says she expected to validate theories that increased breakfast...

Industry News & Opinion

Buffalo Public Schools is turning to local chefs and a little competition to help create new menu items, the Buffalo News reports .

In October, local chefs will compete against each other and a team of seven to 10 students led by chef Bobby Anderson, a former contestant on “Hell’s Kitchen,” to create lunch recipes that comply with USDA nutritional requirements and use seasonal produce sourced locally.

“This Chef Challenge is another way to engage our youth in a fun, friendly competition with local area chefs who can help create appealing recipes that will be incorporated...

FSD Resources