Skip to main content


Vanderbilt Campus Dining embraces its role as the campus leader in food waste reduction and helping the university achieve zero waste goals. Our main dining centers achieved zero waste in 2018. Fall semester 2021, all Campus Dining locations achieved zero waste.

Campus Dining creates healthy, sustainable menus for the Vanderbilt community. These menus are a bridge between nature and culture that provide responsibly sourced nutritious food for our customers. In doing this, we forecast how much food will be needed for approximately four months, communicate what is needed to our purveyors who source the food needed, acquire subsequent par levels and deliver the food as scheduled.  Campus Dining processes the food, serves the food and waste is composted. We analyze food waste on a regular basis and make adjustments to reduce waste.

Campus Dining has several internal systems and practices that promote food waste reduction. We focus on portion control, forecasting, following production sheets and making necessary adjustments.

Campus Dining recycles all paper, cardboard, plastic, tin, aluminum and glass in all of our dining locations.

Campus Dining partnered with The Compost Company in 2017 to begin a pilot program at the Commons for composting all pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste.  The pilot program was a success.


  • All Campus Dining locations were brought online with collecting all pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste for compost, diverting it from the landfill.
  • Campus Dining purchased software called Fusion menu management, which allows us to forecast specific servings for all foods, based on customer counts, for each meal period and track waste. Based on this information, servings and production can be adjusted.
  • Campus Dining purchased Leanpath software in December 2018 to measure, analyze and reduce food waste. Leanpath is technology and food waste solutions, which includes an intelligent scale that weighs leftover food, takes a picture of the leftover food, categorizes and stores the information. The weight of the food and the dollar amount associated with it is recorded. That information, by transaction, is pulled and reviewed by the Sustainability Coordinator, GMs and chefs. Adjustments are made accordingly.
  • Campus Dining partnered with SPEAR to analyze plate waste. We found that the average customer wastes approximately 4 oz. food per plate. We partnered with SPEAR to bring about more awareness regarding food waste by engaging students at a table event.
  • Campus Dining began offering the Impossible Burger at various locations.
  • All to-go containers are compostable.


  • Fall Semester of 2019, Campus Dining eliminated all single-use plastics. This included bottled water and bottled sodas, plastic straws, lids and bags.
  • Fall Semester of 2019, Campus Dining began using blended burgers (70% beef/30% mushrooms) to reduce our use of red meat.
  • We began Leanpath training for our staff Spring Semester 2019. We continued Leanpath training Fall Semester 2019. Leanpath provided training professionals for our operations to fully train our staff. We engaged our staff by recognizing those who most often utilized Leanpath, by waste transaction, and they were able to collect rewards for these good practices.
  • We partnered with Nashville State Community College in Fall 2019 to tour their facilities and develop professional culinary training for selected team members. This training included learning knife skills and proper meat/vegetable trimming practices for minimizing waste.
  • Campus Dining partnered with SPEAR again for another food waste awareness event at the Commons. The Sustainability Coordinator and three members of SPEAR held a table event to showcase the typical plate assembled for meal plan and how much food waste from prepared foods is typically wasted.  Another plate showed an assembled plate for meal plan that included two pieces of whole fruit as sides, making it possible to take those sides to go for later consumption, reducing food waste. We called this, “Sustainable Meal Plan Choices.”
  • Campus Dining was awarded a certificate of recognition in December of 2019 for successfully participating in the Mayor’s Food Saver Challenge.


  • We fully implemented our training program at Nashville State Community College. We wanted to invest in our staff and increase their knowledge and skills, which results in more precision and less food waste. There were 12 out of 15 team members who completed the program and received certificates.
  • Campus Dining began a surplus food donation program by partnering with local non-profits. Suitable surplus prepared food was donated to local non-profit organizations, such as the Nashville Rescue Mission, Operation Stand Down, Room In The Inn, 413 Strong, The Little Pantry That Could, Second Spoon and Second Harvest Food Bank.  Food that is not suitable for donation is collected for compost.
  • During Spring Semester 2020 Campus Dining added compost collection and recycling stations in our outdoor dining tents.
  • Campus Dining Grab n Go markets added Leanpath to all locations for tracking, analyzing and minimizing waste.


  • Vanderbilt University reached its carbon neutrality goals in spring 2021.
  • Campus Dining continued to analyze the information provided by Leanpath and Fusion, so that our management team and staff can further reduce food waste. This will allow us to make menu and quantity adjustments.
  • Campus Dining continued to focus on food waste with our staff and continue to provide training for reducing food waste.
  • Campus Dining Grab n Go markets implemented more sustainable choices that helped eliminate waste caused by packaged foods. We now sell bulk cereal and fountain sodas in sustainable bowls and cups, as well as Nature Valley Granola bars and Boulder chips, which are both packaged in recyclable packaging.
  • Campus Dining’s commissary kitchen has established a network for donating any surplus product, rather than composting it.
  • We have Sustainability Champions in each of our locations. They meet with our Sustainability Coordinator on a regular basis to assess and discuss better ways for reducing all waste, including food waste.


All of Campus Dining’s locations have achieved Zero Waste.

We believe that communicating these efforts and practices to students and the Vanderbilt community is important for bringing about more food waste awareness and change.  We have Leanpath monitors in each of our locations. These monitors communicate how much waste is occurring in each location throughout the day, as well as other food waste information. We utilize social media to communicate.  We frequently partner with Vanderbilt faculty and students to discuss food waste issues and solutions.  We also meet regularly with VSG, SPEAR and other student groups to discuss ways in which to improve sustainability on campus.

Campus Dining is a member of the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative.  We recognize and embrace that plant-forward menus are more nutritious for our bodies and are more respectful of the earth’s resources.

Campus Dining has LEED certified dining locations on campus: Commons Dining Center, Chef James Bistro within Rand Dining Center, Kissam Kitchen, E Bronson Ingram Dining Center, Zeppos Dining Center and Rothschild Dining Center.

We are greatly focused on increasing our local purchasing to reduce our carbon footprint and support the local community.

Campus Dining plans to implement a reusable to-go container program at various locations Fall Semester 2022.