Duke Dining prohibits polystyrene

Duke University can tick another item off the sustainability checklist. At the start of the spring semester, polystyrene foam was banned from all Duke University dining locations. Sustainability is a high priority at the Durham, N.C., campus—the university has been composting for more than 11 years. In preparing the road map for future sustainability efforts, the university and the dining services team saw removal of polystyrene as “very doable,” according to Robert Coffey, director of dining services. In addition to university-operated outlets, locations that are managed by third-party vendors were also affected by the ban. “In this hybrid system,” Coffey explains, “you don’t have total control, you’re working through owners and managers. [But we’re] lucky to have a lot of great partners.”

A big polystyrene culprit was to-go cups, which have mainly been replaced with paper or compostable options. Coffey says cost implications have been minimal. “[At] our core locations where we own the inventory there were some [cost] implications,” Coffey explains. “But we felt like we can make those changes and tighten our belt in other areas to be able to achieve and make it financially viable without raising prices to the customers.”

The transition is a natural one in the grand scope of Duke’s sustainability initiative, and students overall are pleased. “We have a food committee that meets once a week with dining administration,” Coffey says. “[We] got a lot of feedback through that group [as well as the] student government. [It’s] definitely a positive for everyone. They’re glad to see that the change was made.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

Ideas and Innovation
tapas

I’ve created a high school “focus group” to see what future college students will want in terms of foodservice. This year, I called up two now-seniors from the last group to get 10 of their friends together. I also include a sophomore or two so that I always have a contact for next year. Tapas, grain bowls and late-night breakfast all originated from this group.

Ideas and Innovation
making meals

This summer, we teamed up with a church to deliver meals to three housing projects. We brought the meals to the church, and then the church recruited volunteers to deliver the meals to the children. We’ve been very impressed with this new model, and it shows great promise in getting meals to children who otherwise would not be able to leave their housing project.

Industry News & Opinion
sharing love

Having never personally experienced a hurricane, I can only imagine the horrors faced by the millions of people whose lives were affected by Harvey and Irma in late August and early September. It’s a group that comprises uncounted noncommercial operations, including Houston Independent School District, which serves 215,000 students.

But from that tragedy has come one of the most impressive feats of foodservice I’ve seen since coming on board at this magazine, partially spearheaded by Nutrition Officer Betti Wiggins , who only just joined the district. For the entire school year,...

FSD Resources