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Sodexo Expanding Environmental Initiatives on Campus

November 2011 | by Kimberly Wild

Printed with permission from The Buzz Newspaper

While grabbing a bite in the Cosgrove cafeteria before class, most students probably aren't thinking about where the food they are eating came from or what its impact is on the environment. Fortunately for all of us, Steve Finn, General Manager of Sodexo, has that covered.

Sodexo is increasingly looking to purchase the produce used in the cafeteria from local farmers. This is both a significant environmental initiative, as produce coming from closer to home means less transportation and less negative environmental effects, while at the same time supporting local farmers.

Steve expressed his support of these local farmers, explaining, "It's important to prevent local farms from being taken over by large agribusinesses."

His interest in supporting small, local farmers developed from seeing the hard work that his uncle, a farmer in Pennsylvania, does every day to keep his farm running. We all know the Midwest winters are less than accommodating to growing produce, making eating locally more challenging, but Steve has been working with Sodexo to buy from farmers as close to home as possible.

Of course, you can't get more local or sustainable than the St. Ambrose campus garden at the St. Vincent property, supported by GreenLife and dedicated faculty and staff members. Nearly all of the produce grown in this garden is used for meals in the cafeteria. In addition to the small contribution from the Ambrose garden, cafeteria produce comes from a variety of farmers.

On November 9, students met a couple of the farmers who grow much of the produce used in the cafeteria. They had a table in the cafeteria during lunch where students, faculty and staff stopped by to talk to the farmers and learn a little more about what they do. "I hope this will start conversations and raise ideas about what we can do as a campus to be more environmentally conscious," explains Steve.

In addition to their local food initiatives, Sodexo has partnered with GreenLife and the Sustainability Committee in their work to eliminate bottled water on campus. The public is becoming progressively more aware of bottled water's negative effects on the environment, not only because most of the plastic bottles never get recycled, but also because of the damaging effects of transportation of bottled water. Since tap water tends to be cleaner than bottled water anyway, Sodexo has joined GreenLife in encouraging students to use reusable water bottles and fill them with tap water.

To build on this program, Steve will be meeting with a representative from the company, Oasis, to discuss the option of installing multiple water bottle refill stations on campus which students can use to refill their reusable water bottle instead of digging into their pockets to purchase bottled water.

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