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THURSDAY, APRIL 21, 2022 VOLUME CXXVIII ISSUE VIII
CW / Autumn Williams
In the push toward greater food sustainability, Bama Dining has led many of the food sustainability efforts on campus. According to the United Nations, Sustainability is the idea that something (e.g., agriculture, fishing or even preparation of food) is done in a way that is not wasteful of natural resources and can be continued into the future without being detrimental to our environment or health. Often, the idea of food sustainability conjures up mental images of leafy greens, vegan restaurants or miles of farmland in the Midwest. While those images are part of food sustainability, in reality, food sustainability is so much more than that. Composting, recycling, energy efficiency and nutrition each play a critical role in the overall production of food sustainability. Bama Dining has steadily increased sustainability efforts, starting with recycling initiatives in 2006, where they began recycling plastic and metal as well as eliminating plastic trays from the eateries in the UA Student Center's food court and dining halls. In 2009, Bama Dining launched its pre-consumer composting program. In this program, pre-
How Bama Dining fights for food sustainability
CORRIE WILSON CONTRIBUTING WRITER
consumer matter such as vegetable and fruit peels, or green matter, is delivered directly to the University of Alabama Arboretum, where it is mixed with the leaves, or brown matter, to produce rich compost. Through the pre-consumer composting program, Bama Dining has reduced the impact to the local landfill, Eagle Bluff Landfill, by over 4,000 pounds per week, which is the number of pounds picked up from various dining locations. However, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how the University approached sustainability. Because of the pandemic, students were required to take their meals to go, which necessitated the move to disposables. Kristina Patridge, the director of University dining services, and Bruce McVeagh, the district manager of the Bama Dining administration, said the pandemic was a major obstacle in the efforts toward food sustainability. The initiatives surrounding food sustainability on campus were put in the back seat, but not forgotten, as the administration tried to feed thousands of students. As time has passed, Bama Dining's efforts toward food sustainability have experienced steady progress. The University of Alabama releases annual recycling statistics reports, which break down the types and amounts of materials that UA Recycling processes. In those reports, Bama Dining's recycling profile is divided into pounds of compost and pounds of grease. In the 2015 to 2016 recycling report, 1,555 pounds of compost were delivered to the Arboretum, while there were 87,476 pounds of grease used. Fast forward to the 2020 to 2021 annual recycling report: 17,930 pounds of compost were delivered to the Arboretum and 25,869 pounds of grease were used. In essence, more fruits and vegetables were consumed, and less grease was used for cooking. "Bama Dining guests have requested more fruits and vegetables, and Bama Dining has responded to those requests," Patridge said. "There were also more venues constructed that do not include fried foods." The issue of food sustainability also includes how sustainably those foods are prepared in terms of energy system usage. Bama Dining has directed efforts toward the study of sustainable energy usage in the dining options on campus. Bama Dining has spearheaded the installation of the ultra-efficient kitchen hood systems manufactured by Melink. These kitchen hoods possess the highest energy efficiency and filter air and smoke to ultimately create a cleaner and safer environment that promotes healthier cooking practices. In addition to this, they've introduced energy-efficient oven systems. On-campus dining places such as the Fresh Food Company, Panda Express and Chick-fil-A have started utilizing these energy- efficient cooking systems. The benefits of these systems are twofold: The environment benefits due to less gaseous pollutants and less energy waste, and the consumer benefits with healthier and safer food. Bama Dining is interested in the shift toward more vegetarian and vegan options on campus. At Lakeside Dining Hall, there are stir- fry options and grilled vegetable options daily, as well as pho and other bowls offered at Glutinvs Minimvs. At Fresh Food Company, there is a dedicated vegetarian station with various grain bowls, hummus, crudits and a vegetable soup option daily. McVeagh said that in the past, most of the options for on-campus dining were limited in terms of vegetarian and vegan selections. Now, it is becoming increasingly more common to see vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives such as burgers, sausages and more as the efforts continue to reduce meat consumption.
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