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.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources