Rewards for successful sustainability

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Even the governor of the state of Virginia is impressed. Due to its continued commitment to sustainability and implementations of environmental initiatives, the dining services program at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, received the bronze rating of the 2014 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award earlier this year.

“I think what’s been really great,” shares Rial Tombes, sustainability coordinator at Virginia Tech, “is it’s the first real award or any kind of recognition that dining services has gotten for sustainability. Virginia Tech as a whole has gotten a few awards … but this is the first dining-specific recognition, and I think that that is a really good thing to be able to say.”

Presented by the Environmental Virginia Symposium during its 25th anniversary event held at Virginia Military Institute, in Lexington, winners of the award have made sustainability an integral part of their organizational culture through leadership, innovation and continual improvement, according to the governor’s website. By way of an application process, organizations that have demonstrated a culture of environmental sustainability, reduction in their environmental footprint and a commitment to future sustainability-orientated actions are chosen for gold, silver and bronze categories for sustainability and land conservation.

The dining services team has prioritized sustainability, incorporating initiatives such as the Reusable To-Go Container Program (see April 2014 issue); the Farms to Fields Project market concept in the campus’s Owens Food Court, which offers sustainable, organic and local food options for students throughout the school year; and partnering with the University’s college of agriculture and life sciences to bring milk from the university dairy and produce from the school’s research facility at Kentland Farm into the dining program.

Moving forward the dining services team is researching sustainable seafood options, expanding its reusable program and preparing for the incorporation of compostable beverage cups from its campus beverage vendor. 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
delivery

We offer a food delivery service to students who are too sick to eat at the dining halls. Oftentimes when we’re sick, we want simple, bland food that’s easy to digest. We also include a bottle of water since staying hydrated is super important. Students who have used the sick meal program are very grateful that we offer this service because they don’t have to stress over how they’re going to eat when they’re too sick to come into the dining halls. The program is also important in preventing the spread of illness.

Ideas and Innovation
smoothie

Nurses often mention that at 2 p.m. they are dragging and just trying to get through their 12-hour shift. This winter I will be implementing a 2 p.m. pick-me-up, which will include a smoothie station where they can create their own smoothie to help get them through their shift. It will be filled with energy-boosting ingredients to personalize their own drink, such as bananas, almonds, spinach and even dark chocolate.

Ideas and Innovation
chili

Winter is when our guests frequently crave something comforting and hearty, and chili is great for that. Our plan is to boost guest engagement this winter by inviting them to design a unique chili experience. The guest chooses the type of chili first, then the vessel: bowl, bread or potato. Next, they customize their dish even further by choosing the toppings, which will be categorized as traditional, creamy, crunch or heat. The wild card, crunch and heat categories, are where my team and I will flex our creativity and highlight different flavors, ingredients or techniques.

Ideas and Innovation
new year party

In search of inspiration for this letter, I turned to the one I wrote for January 2017, in which I griped about some trends I wanted to toss in the new year. Twelve months later, the Sriracha trend has calmed down, food trucks seem slightly less pervasive and, while the definition of “clean” eating continues to evolve, it’s not so laser-focused on GMOs. So it seems my predictions were correct, including the one about where I’d be eating on New Year’s Day (though I had no clue my now-fiance would propose to me that night over duck noodle soup).

However, since this year has been...

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