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Sustainable Sustenance in UNH Dining Halls

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
June 20, 2007

More than ever, people care about the food they eat, where it came from, how it was grown and whether the farm workers were paid a living wage. So, if you’re one of those people—or maybe more importantly, if you’re not, here are a few facts about dining services that should make you feel good about eating there.

First, sustainable food: that’s the buzz phrase used to describe the kinds of agricultural measures mentioned above. It refers to food that’s grown locally, with thought given to the people’s health, the environment and our world’s vanishing resources.

UNH was the first university in the nation to sign the "Agreement of Intention and Collaboration" linked to the International Slow Food Association (think the opposite of fast food). We have an organic research dairy—the first in the country—a food waste composting program and an initiative to turn used vegetable oil into biodiesel fuel.

But that’s not all. The eggs you’re served in Holloway Commons, Stillings and Philbrook dining halls are cage-free, meaning they are laid by chickens who are allowed to roam around free rather than from hens who have been confined to cages. Dining services gets them from Pete and Gerry’s Eggs, a certified humane chicken farm in the White Mountains.

Produce comes from the Organic Garden Club, of which UNH was a founding supporter. Apples and honey are also local; the honey comes from Bee Rich Apiaries in Hudson and our own Woodman Farm supplies the apples. The milk served doesn’t have any recombinant bovine growth hormones.

"UNH Dining has been committed to sustainability for more than a decade, long before it became a buzzword. Sustainability is one of eight core values that guide the work that we do. One of the first projects the Office of Sustainability worked on after it was created was a joint project with UNH Dining to create a food waste composting system,” says Rick MacDonald, assistant director for support services.

The gardening club is part of the Local Harvest Initiative, which emphasizes serving local and regional foods in the dining halls and at UNH events. And the compost program prevents leftover food from being thrown away and, instead, returns it to the ground, adding valuable nutrients back to the soil.

"A commitment to sustainability makes good fiscal sense as well as making good environmental sense. For the past 10 years we have kept most of our food waste out of the traditional waste stream,” MacDonald says. “By doing so we avoided tipping and hauling fees for food waste that would be thrown into dumpsters and sewer fees for the food that would have gone through a food disposer and entered the wastewater system. Collection of waste oil for biodiesel immediately saved $250 per month for fees we paid to have our waste oil collected by an outside company."

And don’t forget to top off your meal with a cup of Fair Trade Certified organic coffee. The Fair Trade organization helps to fight poverty by giving farmers in developing countries a way to access international markets while developing their business skills so they can compete in the global marketplace.

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