College Dining Services And Sustainability?
Beet the System!
Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resource sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages, and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient, and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardroom of distant corporations and back to the community, where it belongs (Michael Shuman).
The intention of this website is:
- To share information about and experiences gained through working to create more sustainable dining services at colleges, specifically through asking two main questions:
- Where does our food come from?
- How is our dining service managed?
- To create a space for questions and dialogue around these issues.
This website culminates a year-long process of investigating how to make the dining commons at Hampshire College more sustainable, with sustainability being the process of creating a lifestyle that is more environmentally and socially harmonious, so that all living beings can meet their needs in the present without conceding the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The questions that initially inspired my investigations were about why such a large corporation, Sodexho, is managing our dining commons, and why the food being served in the dining commons is not more representative of Hampshire's values (based on Hampshire's Mission Statement, which says that "Hampshire seeks to model the values it instills in its students," as well as Hampshire's Sustainable Campus Plan, which says that "Hampshire seeks out local suppliers and contractors, both in construction and other goods (produce for dining commons)").
The investigation of these questions had already begun at Hampshire before I got involved, and I am confident that it will continue after I leave. As I know that this investigation has, is, and will take place in other colleges as well (not to mention other large institutions such as public schools, hospitals, and business offices), I am hoping that this website will serve as a resource for many people.
Although I originally intended my research to be unbiased, I realize that this project has been an anti-corporate critique from the beginning. I was able to remain open-minded to varying perspectives throughout the process, but my underlying motivation has consistently been critical of the corporate structure.
This website is broken down into six general sections: Corporate Globalization, Localization, College Cafeterias: Working Toward Sustainability, Case Study: Hampshire College, Sodexho, and Discussion.
- 'Corporate Globalization,' puts the idea of sustainability in a larger context to show the circumstances within which we are working and to emphasize the importance of working toward sustainability at this time.
- 'Localization,' suggests that one of the ways we can resist entirely giving up our voices in the world is by strengthening our local communities, particularly through buying locally grown food.
- 'College Cafeterias: Working Toward Sustainability' provides examples of what different colleges and universities have done to create more sustainable cafeterias regarding food and management on their campuses.
- 'Case Study: Hampshire College' looks specifically at how Hampshire College is working to create a more sustainable cafeteria regarding food and management and also addresses some of the important questions we have confronted.
- The section on 'Sodexho' provides an analysis of the Sodexho corporation- its history, controversial relationships, efforts toward corporate responsibility, etc.
- The 'Discussion' section offers a space for Hampshire community members to update our efforts, and also includes a space where anyone can ask questions, share their own similar efforts, and initiate discussion on any issues relevant to creating sustainable cafeterias.
There is also a References section (as well as resource sections at the bottom of each page) which section compiles a list of books, articles, websites, and movies that have been helpful in our process here at Hampshire.
The themes that I initially started this project out with led to many more. Some include:
- The case for and against private/for-profit prisons;
- The importance of supporting local food producers and distributors within a global, industrialized food system where even "organic" is not always the best bet;
- Looking at various attempts of corporate accountability in a corporate globalized world;
- Understanding the balance of local and global and how to create a democratic system within a globalized world where people feel empowered and not immobile.
All of these themes, plus many more, are addressed throughout this web page, to anticipate questions you may have.
Additional questions that this website does not address include:
- How much waste is produced in the cafeteria and where does that waste go? Is your food waste composted? Is recycling available and clear?
- How efficient is the cafeteria's use of energy? Do you use compact fluorescent light bulbs?
- What kinds of disposable products are used? Do you use Styrofoam cups for coffee/tea/soup? Did you know that there is such a thing as compostable plates, cups, and silverware?
- Where does the coffee come from? Is it fairly traded?
- What kinds of cleaners are used? Are they non-toxic/environmentally friendly?
These questions are relevant to sustainability and we are addressing many of them at Hampshire, but the work that this website addresses is oriented around local food purchasing and empowered management.
Flint, R. Warren and W.L. Houser. Living a Sustainable Lifestyle for Our Children's Children. New York: Authors Choice Press, 2001.