Brown Dining is committed to improving our local food system through our sustainability initiatives, which work to support local farmers, reduce our waste output, and purchase fairly traded and environmentally friendly foods.
As Wendell Berry says, "Eating is a political act." At Brown, we are committed to buying foods that are local, ecological, fair, and humane.
In 2009, as the result of a grassroots effort by a group of students, BDS accepted the Real Food Challenge. The students wanted BDS’ food purchasing decisions to consider four criteria: whether foods are local, ecological, fair, and humane. Additionally, the students wanted to be able to trace and track BDS’ purchases to determine how they stacked up to the Real Food Calculator. Student intern positions were created to assist BDS in moving this campaign forward.
Brown Dining was one of the first institutions in the nation to pilot the Real Food Calculator to track and assess its purchases. Today, BDS is one of over 340 colleges and high schools nationwide that supports just and sustainable agricultural systems.
Currently, BDS has increased its percentage of purchases at the Blue Room to 50 percent Real Food. The Calculator has enabled BDS to assess how well food purchases measure up against the criteria. Areas of focus thus far have been milk, eggs, bananas, fish, shellfish, and coffee.
As of now, BDS has already surpassed their 2014 goal (35 percent of food purchases meet the Real Food criteria) and is working toward developing a new goal. BDS recently received the Pioneer Award from the Real Food Challenge for their work on this initiative.
Beyond the Bottle
In late 2008, the "Beyond the Bottle" student group identified the presence of single-use bottled water on campus as an obstacle to Brown's sustainability efforts. Since then Brown has committed to:
- Reduce purchased bottled water by 65 percent by end of year fiscal year 2011 and by 80 percent by end of year fiscal year 2012.
- Aspirational goal of reducing purchased bottled water by 90 percent by end of year fiscal year 2013.
- Investigate potential for 100 percent elimination.
As a result of the three-year campaign, bottled water purchases by Dining Services have been reduced by 90 percent since the inception of the initiative, exceeding the fiscal year 2012 goal of 80 percent and meeting the aspirational goals for fiscal year 2013 one year early. Read more about these efforts on the Dining Services Sustainability website or in the Annual Sustainability Report.
In October of 2008, Brown Dining committed to trayless dining in its Verney-Woolley (VW) dining hall and eliminated trays entirely. Trayless dining conserves half of a gallon of heated water per tray. We project a savings of more than 4,800 gallons of water per week and 155,000 gallons of water per school year. Studies have shown trayless dining also reduces plate waste, energy, and chemicals otherwise used to wash trays.