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LETTER: The University strives for more sustainable, plant-based dining options

The Sustainable Food Action Plan sets specific targets for sustainable food

In 2018, 10.4 percent of UVA Dining’s purchases met the AASHE STARS criteria for sustainable food.
In 2018, 10.4 percent of UVA Dining’s purchases met the AASHE STARS criteria for sustainable food.

Recently, Amnesty International at UVA called for Aramark to be held accountable to a defined sustainability plan that aligns with University President Jim Ryan’s Great and Good Plan. As representatives of the University’s Sustainable Food Strategy Task Force, we deeply appreciate and echo Amnesty International’s call for sustainable and plant-based food to be increased at the University and want to highlight how it currently tracks and sets goals for sustainable food. 

Formed in 2015, the SFSTF meets monthly to develop and implement the Sustainable Food Action Plan which guides the three dining providers at the University to meet the sustainable food goals outlined in the University’s 2016-2020 Sustainability Plan. The five food goals seek to increase access to sustainable foods, decrease food waste and energy and water impacts, increase awareness about sustainable food systems to facilitate informed choices and collaborate with community partners to advance sustainable food systems in the region. The SFSTF is a collaborative group, composed of students, faculty and staff. The group includes representatives from the three dining providers — U.Va. Dining, U.Va. Health System Dining, Darden Dining — and community food organizations. U.Va. Dining is held accountable to the University’s Sustainability Plan and reports its sustainable food purchases annually in the University’s Sustainability Annual Report.

In 2018, 10.4 percent of U.Va. Dining’s purchases met the AASHE STARS criteria for sustainable food. Last December, the University’s Board of Visitors approved a requirement that by 2030, 30 percent of the University’s food purchases must be sustainable and that its reactive nitrogen footprint be reduced by 30 percent. Increasing plant-based food options at the University is a key strategy outlined in the University’s Nitrogen Action Plan, which further encourages all dining providers at the University to increase plant-forward dining over the next ten years.

To help us reach the University’s new sustainable food goals, the SFSTF has recently launched a Plant Based Strategy Working Group, which is comprised of faculty, staff at U.Va. Dining and at the Office for Sustainability, and student leaders from Veggies of Virginia, Bad Vegan and the U.Va. Community Garden to galvanize student demand for plant-forward foods at the University. The SFSTF is also working on an updated version of the Food Action Plan that strengthens the University’s commitment to equitable food systems, including community collaboration for sustainable food and food equity at the University and in the broader community.

We know that the road to an equitable, sustainable food system requires many voices and it challenges us all to make different decisions. We are striving to expand student and community members to help us navigate and grow our efforts to ensure the University lives up to its values and works toward a sustainable food system that is accessible to all.

The SFSTF is comprised of representatives from all entities connected with the campus food system