UDS receives top grade in sustainability

University Dining Services were rated best in the Big Ten.

Mackenzie Martin

University of Minnesota Dining Services (UDS) ranks among the nationâÄôs best in food-related sustainability, according to the College Sustainability Report Card that was released earlier this month. UDS received an âÄúAâÄù in the food and recycling category of the report, specifically in the areas of local food use and waste conservation. âÄúItâÄôs a good reflection of the success that weâÄôve had on campus,âÄù UDS Marketing Manager Heather Dickson said of the grade. In a press release, UDS cited several specific sustainable practices it uses, including composting and buying local foods. The College Sustainability Report Card is an annual evaluation performed by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, which measures higher education institutions throughout the country. The report is a comprehensive assessment that also includes evaluations of institutionsâÄô administration, energy use, student involvement, transportation and green building initiatives. According to the report, the University ranked top in the Big Ten for sustainability. Five others tied with the University in the food and recycling category, including the University of WisconsinâÄìMadison, Pennsylvania State University, Northwestern University, the University of MichiganâÄìAnn Arbor and the University of Illinois. Dickson said customers have been particularly responsive to the composting program because students can directly see how their actions can have a big impact. UDS has collected more than 380 tons of compost from the different dining locations on campus since it began in 2007, according to the release. UDS reported that about 20 percent of its food budget is spent on food that is either grown or processed locally. In 2008, UDS used more than 170,000 pounds of locally grown produce, 48,000 pounds of locally raised meat and 100,000 gallons of local dairy. Additionally, almost all eggs used by UDS are cage-free, and much of the breads served in campus dining facilities are made locally. While this year marks the third-consecutive year that the University has received top marks in the category of food and recycling, Leslie Bowman, director of UDS contract administration , said UDS is pleased with this yearâÄôs grade but will have to work hard to maintain the recognition as expectations rise. âÄúWe want to continue to strive to get better and to expand our program and to continue to earn an âÄòAâÄô every year,âÄù Bowman said. The University received an overall sustainability grade of an âÄúA-,âÄù up from last yearâÄôs âÄúB+âÄù rating. While reaction to increased sustainable efforts by UDS has been very positive, the program needs to increase its visibility by educating students on how to use the programs that are available, Bowman said. A group of student interns hired by UDS, dubbed the âÄúGreen Team,âÄù have been working to promote sustainable dining practices on campus since 2007. Green Team workers help to demonstrate and inform students and employees of the benefits of environmentally friendly practices. âÄúItâÄôs a continuing effort to educate our customers,âÄù Bowman said.