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Duke University: Leading the Way with a Hydration Hub

From BUNN.BUNN filtered dispensed water unit

According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report, water is the most preferred beverage for all three mealtimes—56% prefer it at breakfast, 69% at lunch and 73% at dinner. Offering water is obviously crucial for college cafeterias, but at Duke University in Durham, N.C., staff took it one step further and made water the main event.

Two of the university’s most high-traffic dining centers, Brodhead Center and East Union Marketplace, have phased out all HFCS and many sugary drinks as part of a broader campaign known as “Healthy Campus Initiative” to promote and support healthy lifestyles on campus.

These two sugar-conscious facilities have installed BUNN Refresh cold filtered dispensed water units as a marquis beverage menu option. With BUNN Refresh, premium filtered still and sparkling water options can be easily dispensed into reusable water bottles. In addition, other flavored waters and flavored teas are available at the two locations.

Giving students a healthier option

Robert Coffey, executive director of dining at Duke University, says the campaign gives students menu options to spend their dining dollars on “center of the plate” items that will nourish them at the two facilities. He notes that during the first year of the new initiative at the two dining centers, there wasn’t a single complaint from students about the beverages that were phased out.

“Duke has taken on the Healthy Campus Initiative,” Coffey says, “to be the healthiest campus in the nation.” According to Technomic’s 2016 Beverage report, 43% of millennials say they think restaurants should offer healthier beverages, and perhaps that opinion carries over to their college dining halls. And, in Technomic’s 2017 College & University report, 19% of students say that a school’s dining program and amenities are important or extremely important when deciding which school to attend. College & university FSDs are offering more options to meet this demand. From cafeterias that offer accommodation to specialized diets (i.e. gluten-free, vegan, etc.) to facilities installing equipment that better caters to today’s students’ desires, colleges across the country are making moves to update and enhance their dining offerings.

Sustainability initiatives

Beyond offering healthier options, the new water stations by BUNN were designed to accommodate water bottles, and brought with it the sustainability benefit of reducing waste from disposable plastic bottles on campus.

“There is such a heavy use of water bottles—we did make a different design so the students could more easily accommodate putting a water bottle under the spigot for the spa waters,” Coffey says. From a sustainability standpoint, the decision to add water bottle-friendly water dispensers also helped reduce to-go cup use and dishwasher use for in-house glasses.

Coffey says that the Duke Dining has also created a sustainability manager position, a move necessary because “sustainability ties into almost every conversation” about the university. Duke also has implemented a new strategic Sustainable Procurement Plan that focuses on healthy criteria for all food purchases. This plan recently won the NACUFS Loyal Horton Gold Award.

Duke’s emphasis on water is in line with what a lot of consumers are looking for. Technomic’s 2016 Beverage report finds that one in three consumers are increasingly drinking water for health considerations. With BUNN Refresh filtered water dispensers, university dining halls can more easily offer healthy and appealing options that help patrons stay hydrated.

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