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At Vanderbilt Campus Dining, we take responsibility for doing our part to support the wellbeing of our guests and for supporting the health of our environment. Our sustainability program is designed to give you information about our kitchen principles and how they affect your environment, community and wellbeing.

The Menus of Change – University Research Collaborative

We are proud to be a part of The Menus of Change University Research Collaborative. MCURC is a dynamic, invitational network of leading university-based scholars, foodservice business leaders and executive chefs which collaborate on research and education in support of culinary-centric, evidence-based food systems innovation within and beyond universities.

This initiative leverages the unique position of universities to advance healthier, more sustainable life-long food choices among students—who will soon be parents and adult decision-makers—by connecting a diversity of insights from academic programs, dining services and athletics (performance dining).

Its principles include:

  • Transparency – provide customers with abundant information about food production, sourcing, nutrient info, and environmental impact
  • Buy Fresh and Seasonal, Local and Global – start local first and expand as needed
  • Reward Better Agricultural Practices – the environmental cost of food is largely determined by how it is produced
  • Leverage Globally Inspired, Largely Plant-Based Cooking
  • Focus on Whole, Minimally Processed Foods – focus on foods which are less likely to contain high levels of added sugars, trans fats, and sodium
  • Grow Everyday Options, While Honoring Special Occasion Traditions – expand choices to enhance nutrition, embrace sustainability, and exceed consumer values
  • Lead With Menu Messaging Around Flavor – focus on taste to create consumer excitement around sustainability
What’s Happening on Campus Now:

Serve more kinds of seafood, more often.

  • The Kitchen at Kissam serves poké bowls for lunch which include protein-packed, health-promoting omega- 3s fish such as salmon and tuna.

Substantially reducing sugary beverages with innovative replacements

  • Addition of hydration stations across campus
  • Reduction of soda options in fountain machines
  • Adding sparkling water dispensers and more tea options

Serve less red meat, less often.

  • Reduced number of times beef is offered while increasing seafood and vegetarian options
  • All of our burgers across campus are 75% beef and 25% mushrooms.
  • We also have the Impossible Burger offered at our burger stations. (plant-based option)

Use poultry and eggs in moderation.

  • We serve only cage-free eggs across campus.

Reduce portions.

  • While emphasizing calorie quality over quantity.

Creation Gardens

  • Creation Gardens is a primary distributor for Vanderbilt Campus Dining. We are proud to be a partner and receive an extensive range of local and regional produce, meats, seafood, pantry items, and products that can be found throughout our Dining Halls.
  • Creation Gardens, prioritizes sourcing from local and regional farmers who share our commitment to delivering the freshest and most nutritious ingredients. We believe in supporting the local economy and cultivating a sustainable food system.
  • Our dedication to local and regional sourcing sets us apart. We prioritize these partnerships, always striving to send local or regional products first. This guarantees that you enjoy the finest flavors and nutritional benefits while supporting local farmers and producers.

Hydrohouse Farms

  • HydroHouse Farms, founded in 2016 by Hassan Sharraff, a Vanderbilt University alum.
  • HydroHouse Farms aims to provide high-quality food production and agricultural education to local communities. Located on a 10-acre property in Hermitage, Tennessee, the farm specializes in year-round hydroponic production of leafy greens in a controlled environment.
  • The greenhouse, powered by natural gas and a backup generator, employs the nutrient film technique (NFT) to efficiently deliver nutrients to the crops’ root systems, conserving up to 90% of water compared to traditional farming.
  • The greenhouse’s design with air-filled walls maximizes sunlight exposure, while temperature and ventilation are carefully regulated for optimal growth.
  • Hydrohouse greens are served in all dining halls across Vanderbilt’s campus.

Henosis Farms

Owned and operated by David Wells in Whites Creek, TN, this mushroom farm incorporates upcycling of agricultural byproducts to lessen waste in its production. Henosis also partners with the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps to promote, plant, and protect the urban tree canopy in Nashville.

  • Products Used: Lion’s Mane, Oyster, and Shitake mushrooms.  
  • Locations/Platforms produce is used in: Lion’s Mane and Oyster mushrooms used at 2301. Shiitake mushrooms used at 2301, EBI, and Kissam.

Ever Tru Farms

Collaborating with the innovative Bosch Growers in the Netherlands, Ever Tru Farms grows strawberries 365 days a year in its 15-acre hydroponic greenhouse located in Somerset, KY. The farm utilizes sustainable practices through a water-based mineral nutrient solution to feed the crops, while also relying on LED lamps and dual energy screens to effectively save on energy.  

  • Products Used: Strawberries 
  • Locations/Platforms product is used in: Primary strawberry source used at all dining halls. Creation Gardens supplements commodity strawberries at times to meet supply demand.  
Overall Waste Reduction:
  • We have removed all plastic straws and bags from dining operations
  • We have converted all disposable cups, containers, flatware, and napkins to compostable material
  • We have removed trash cans from Rand, Commons, and Pub in order for students to use tray returns to be able to properly dispose of waste.
  • We have implemented Fusion menu management system and food production processes in dining operations.
  • Installing LeanPath waste tracking systems across campus. Leanpath‘s innovative technology and practices are used to reduce waste by avoiding overbuying and unwanted food donation programs.
  • Adding dish room at Kissam in Fall 2019 to support the conversion to reusable dish-ware and to-go containers
  • Joined the Mayor’s Food Saver Challenge in December
  • We have removed all plastic water and soda bottles from our dining operations.

Food Waste

  • LeanPath
    • Through collaboration with FutureVU Sustainability, the university has already implemented food waste collection for composting at all of our major Dining facilities and will continue to expand. Additionally, we use Leanpath‘s innovative technology and practices to reduce waste by avoiding overbuying and unwanted food donation programs.
    • CBORD Fusion is the company’s newest cloud-based solution specifically designed for the Higher Education market. CBORD Fusion offers a complete food and nutrition solution from menu planning to production, food service operations, purchasing and cost management, student mobile nutrition information, with quick access to critical data needed to run a rapidly changing campus dining environment. The system is designed for campus operations to improve and control processes from the loading dock to multiple dining venues.
  • The Compost Company
    • We are excited to partner with The Compost Company, located in Ashland City, TN, to create a closed-loop composting system that benefits both our campus and the environment. As part of our commitment to reducing waste and promoting sustainability, The Compost Company collects all the pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste generated at our dining locations. Instead of ending up in landfills, this waste is transported to their state-of-the-art compost facility. At their facility, The Compost Company works their magic, transforming our food waste into nutrient-rich compost. By diverting our waste from the traditional waste stream, we ensure that nothing goes to waste and contribute to a greener future. The compost produced by The Compost Company finds its way back to our campus, completing the compost cycle. It is used to enrich the soil in our flower beds, providing essential nutrients for vibrant and healthy plants. This sustainable practice not only reduces our environmental impact but also enhances the beauty of our campus.

Eliminating Plastic

Vanderbilt University recently announced a comprehensive long-term strategy to significantly reduce its environmental footprint in part by powering its campus entirely through renewable energy and reducing waste, putting the university on track to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Backed by broad student and University support, the university plans to meet its 2050 commitment with a multi-tiered approach, including reducing consumption and waste. The university is currently in the process of developing a Zero Waste Study, which includes eliminating single use plastic on campus.

Vanderbilt Campus Dining is eliminating all single-use plastic in dining facilities across the University, which includes plastic water and soda bottles starting Fall 2019. Vanderbilt also increased the number of rapid water bottle filling stations on campus to aid in this effort. This will help reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles sold each year by over 390,000 (more than enough to cover a football field)!

Read more about this initiative here.

Learn more about Campus Dining’s efforts with FutureVU and Vanderbilt’s push toward carbon neutrality here.