Aramark at University of Florida expands sustainability initiatives

Oct. 7—Aramark at 50,000-student University of Florida, in Gainsville, Fla., recently expanded its sustainability efforts including improving its Farm to School program, creating a sustainable catering menu and installing a herb garden, according to a press release.

The Farm to School program was developed through Aramark's Green Thread environmental stewardship program. It provides locally grown produce to students, such as organic citrus, organic and fair trade coffee, tempeh and local ice cream, while supporting local agriculture. Currently, the department purchases 33% of its produce locally and 25% of total food purchases are either local, organic or third-party certified. To increase local purchases, the department recently connected with new farms that will supply dining with local and organic sweet corn, green beans, cucumbers, herbs, squash, pumpkins and peppers throughout the fall and fresh blackberries and organic watermelon throughout the summer months.

"We are excited to create a more direct link between the producers of food and the consumers of the food in Gainesville,” Dana Falstad, Aramark's sustainability manager for Gator Dining Services, said in the press release. “UF's Farm to School program promotes sustainable agriculture, which minimizes environmental damage and depletion of resources from farming, supports family farms and circulates money within the community."

Another initiative Gator Dining implemented, as part of a partnership with the university's Office of Sustainability, was the installation of four raised-bed herb gardens. The department will be able to use the herbs in the residential dining facilities. Another new initiative for the department was the creation of a special catering menu that focuses on local, organic and third-party certified menu options. The Natural Selections menu features local and organic coffee, milk and juices; entrees featuring grass-fed beef, local chicken and pork; Monterey Bay-approved sustainable seafood; local and organic produce; and an organic desserts section.

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We get the new folks abridged business cards saying, “Hi, my name is so-and-so and I work in nutrition department.” We thought it would give them more ownership of the program and elevate their status and position in the organization. It also gives our team more self-confidence and self-worth as an employee, which can be a challenge with foodservice workers.

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