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Photo: Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt Dining recognizes that food brings people together and creates a sense of place and a feeling of kinship. Food sustains not only our bodies, but also our communities and environment. Vanderbilt Dining is a non-profit, university-managed auxiliary service. As such, it chooses to offer sustainable food choices to Vanderbilt students, employees, and campus visitors. VU Dining’s “Eat the World, Save the Earth” program is designed to give the campus community and visitors information about kitchen principles and how they affect individuals, the environment, and individual and society’s well being. Look for these types of items available in Vanderbilt Dining markets, restaurants, and coffee shops on campus:

ORGANIC: Contains at least 95% organically produced ingredients (by weight) from a USDA certified source

VEGETARIAN: Contains no meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, or products derived from these sources but may contain dairy or eggs

VEGAN: Contains absolutely no ingredients from animal or dairy products

LOCAL: Contains ingredients purchased from a local company or farm

FAIR TRADE: Contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers

RECYCLE: Made from materials that are 100% recyclable

Vanderbilt was recently awarded membership in the Menus of change University Research Collaborative (MCURC). Co-founded and jointly led by Stanford University and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative is a working group of leading scholars, foodservice business leaders, and executive chefs from invited colleges and universities who are accelerating efforts to move Americans toward healthier, more sustainable, plant-forward diets. MCURC encourages local sourcing and sustainable food choices.

Sustainable Food Practices

  • Menus are seasonal, adjusting to foods which are available locally. Whenever possible, local and organic produce and vegetables are used.
  • A vendor, Fresh Point, is used to automatically fill food orders while prioritizing local options.
  • A vegetarian entrée is available at each meal and there are identifiable icons defining food choices as organic, vegetarian, vegan, etc.
  • 100% canola oil is used in all fryers.
  • All foods served in Vanderbilt Dining facilities are MSG free.
  • Our coffee is organic, local, and fair trade.
  • Bottled water is bottled locally, reducing transportation waste.
  • Our milk comes from Hatcher Family Dairy in Triune, TN. Salsa and a majority of fruits and vegetables are local “Pick Tennessee” products.
  • Organic fruits and vegetables are offered at most meals. Organic products are offered in all Varsity Markets.

Waste Reduction

  • Campus dining has eliminated plastic straw use.
  • Post-consumer food waste generated at The Commons Dining Center is placed in a pulper for volume reduction and removal of liquids, reducing food waste volumes by 85%.
  • All dining centers have a compost program that collects food waste to be processed into compost.
  • Rand Dining Center uses ORCA digester to reduce food waste going to a landfill in addition to composting initiatives.
  • Vanderbilt Dining diverts leftover food from the landfill by donating to the Second Harvest Food Bank. In addition, leftover strawberries from commencement celebrations are donated to the Nashville Zoo.
  • Used vegetable oil is collected by students and processed into biodiesel fuel. This fuel is used to operate many of the university’s maintenance vehicles.
  • Plastic or paper to-go cups, plates, and cutlery provided in Vanderbilt Dining facilities are all recyclable or compostable.

Community Involvement

Vanderbilt Dining employs a Sustainability Supervisor who is responsible for researching, implementing, and managing all of Dining’s green initiatives and participates in the planning and implementation of many campus-wide sustainability initiatives throughout the year. Vanderbilt Dining has also established a Dining Advisory Committee, comprised of students and staff to address all aspects of dining on campus, including the procurement of sustainable foods.

Hydration Stations

Vanderbilt Dining worked in conjunction with S.P.E.A.R. to offer a convenient, touch-free, hygienic, green alternative to bottled water. The result was Hydration Stations. Dining wanted to offer filtered water for students without the need to enter service areas. Thus, Hydration Stations have been installed in The Commons Center and outside of Rand Dining Hall. The Hydration Stations supply pure, fresh water, which is “polished” one final time as it’s dispensed, using state-of-the-art filtration. Touch-free hygienic design enhances the sanitary condition of the appliance at all times.

Additional Resources

Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt University