Grab-and-go has also surged in popularity post-pandemic. And operators have sought a variety of means to meet the growing demand for convenience while still working towards their sustainability goals.
Reusable container programs have been an answer for many.
The University of Dubuque in Dubuque, Iowa, introduced a grab-and-go container program this past school year, and several college operators with existing grab-and-go options are working toward refining them and making them more sustainable.
At Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., compostable cutlery recently replaced disposables, and the team is considering compostable straws and more sustainable to-go packaging.
Other operators are turning to campus partners to help reach their sustainability goals. The dining team at Texas State University in San Marcos partnered with the school’s agriculture department to set up a composting program to reduce food waste. And at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, the dining team worked with the student sustainability club to hand out reusable bags and get rid of plastic bags at campus retail locations.
Tackling food insecurity
Helping those struggling with food insecurity is another area of focus for operators as students return to campus, and they have utilized different ways to tackle the problem. Just under 60% of FSD survey respondents say they have food a food pantry on campus, and 37% offer a meal swipe donation program.
Other operators, such as the University of Montana in Missoula, donate leftover food to help feed food insecure students and make sure it doesn’t go to waste.
“We maintain a list of food insecure individuals from the on-campus food pantry,” says Executive Chef Brian Heddlesten. “At the end of plated catered events, we transfer the unserved plates to another location and notify individuals on the list that they can come and pick up food.”
Some operators are also going beyond their campus and are tackling food insecurity in their greater community. The dining program at Virginia Tech, for example, partners with a local nonprofit that picks up and delivers leftovers to food pantries and organizations in the area, and at the University of Northern Iowa, leftover food from dining services ends up going to the local Salvation Army.