Food and Dining

Colgate strives to improve the many dimensions that constitute a sustainable food program.  Central New York is dairy and farming country and we continue to explore ever-increasing opportunities to serve locally produced, organically grown food on campus.

Buying local supports our farming community and allows us to form personal relationships with our neighbors, reduce our emissions associated with transporting large quantities of food from long distances, and helps ensure that our food is fresh and produced responsibly.

Current practices and recent accomplishments:
  • Approximately, 15% of Colgate's food purchases come within a 200-mile radius of campus. 
  • Colgate Community Vegetable Garden. Environmental Studies students and members of the student club, Green Thumbs, led the effort in 2009 and 2010 to research and get approval for a 1/2 acre vegetable garden on campus adjacent to Newell Apartments.  Today, the garden is managed by students and food produced from the garden is served on campus.  Visit the garden on facebook
  • CNY Bounty.  Beginning in 2010, CNY Bounty, in collaboration with Colgate's Sustainability Office, established a delivery location on campus.  Colgate community members can now shop online for over 900 products from over 90 local farms and have it delivered to them weekly. 
  • Dan Purdy and Sons.  Colgate's relationship with Dan Purdy and Sons of nearby Sherburne, N.Y helps to streamline Colgate’s purchase of locally produced food for our dining halls.  As one of the only USDA federally inspected local agricultural processors of meats, poultry and seafood in the region, Purdy and Sons is our campus's main distributor of local products.
  • Common Thread Community Supported Agriculture.  Starting in fall semester 2009, Dining Services began purchasing produce from Common Thread (located only 5 miles north of campus near Lake Moraine).  Moreover, dozens of Colgate faculty and staff have shares through Common Thread including Colgate President Jeffrey Herbst.  By supporting Common Thread, shareholders get delectable and nutritious locally grown food while helping to support our local economy and neighbors.
  • Fair Trade Coffee.  Colgate Dining Services is dedicated to serving fair trade coffee in all resident and retail locations.
  • The Colgate Hunger Outreach Program (CHOP) addresses issues of hunger in Madison County and strives to educate the Colgate community about the deeper issues surrounding hunger and poverty. Group members participate directly in one or more of the following ways: working in the Friendship Inn Soup Kitchen on Monday nights, volunteering at the Hamilton Food Cupboard on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and salvaging food from various locations on campus to deliver to the soup kitchen.
  • Colgate Dining Services collaborates with local merchants to provide 80 meals weekly to the Friendship Inn.
  • Salvage: Don’t Throw it Out Campaign run by the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE) collects hundreds of pounds of unused food items at the end of the academic year and donates them to the Hamilton Food Cupboard and other charitable organizations in the region.
  • All of Colgate’s rice (white, brown and basmati) is organic.
  • Organic beans are used, including kidney, black, pinto, chili, lentil split pea and navy.
  • Colgate offers a daily vegan option at its main dining facility.
  • Refills on all beverages are discounted with your personal mug.
  • All disposable cutlery is biodegradable.
  • Colgate uses corn-based, bio-plastic containers that are 100% compostable.  These containers can be found in every location where take-out food is available.
  • Colgate’s napkins are made from post-consumer content, chlorine-free, and completely compostable.  Napkins are dispensed at each table to promote as-needed use and reduce overall less waste.
  • Dining Services recycles paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastic and glass.

4.3.1 Dining Services Switches to Trayless Operations
Trays in campus dining halls encourage students to take more food than they can generally eat.  Research of 186,000 meals at 25 colleges and universities revealed a 25% to 30% reduction in food waste per person as a result of trayless dining. Sodexo, Colgate's dining services contractor, reports that 40% of the campuses where they operate have switched to trayless operations resulting in an average of 30% reduced food waste.  This results in less food purchased, prepared, and cooked which reduces cafeteria costs.  Less food waste also means less waste for staff to handle and dispose of which results in reduced landfill tipping fees and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.  Trays also need to be washed which consumes water and energy.   

Colgate's Dining Services currently prepares 2,500 meals per day that are served on trays.  In Frank Dining Hall the current conveyor belt system, on two rubber bands, was designed to move trays (dinner plates are too small to be moved by the system) and the trays need to be removed by employees in the dishroom as it is not a continuous loop.  It is a 13-year old, labor intensive system that is prone to frequent breakdowns that result in increased congestion in the dining hall, disruption for the staff scraping and cleaning trays, and it requires an immediate response from Buildings and Grounds staff charged with fixing the system.  Due to the unreliability and ongoing expense of maintaining this antiquated system, dining services hopes to replace it in the summer of 2012.  The planned renovation creates an opportunity to implement trayless dining at Colgate.

Students in the Colgate Hunger Outreach Program (CHOP) have routinely held "Scrape the Plate" events in Frank Dining Hall and weighed an average of 130 lbs of food waste in a 2-hour stretch during dinner.  Additionally, students in Environmental Studies 390 spent the Spring 2011 semester researching the environmental, economic, and social implications of implementing a trayless dining system in Frank Dining Hall.  They concluded that Colgate could expect to reduce their annual food waste anywhere between 7.8 to 24.6 tons per year and save between $128,200 to $412,200 annually in food expenditures by switching to trayless dining. Click here to view their full report. 

In 2013, Dining Services implements trayless dining in Frank Dining Hall. 

Metrics and Timeline:
In 2013, Colgate reduces its annual food waste by approximately 10 tons and saves approximately $200,000 (of which the University would recoup $100,000 off a renegotiated contract) in annual food expenditures by implementing a trayless dining system in Frank Dining Hall.   

Recommended Action:
In FY 2012, establish an educational campaign that informs students of the benefits of switching to trayless dining.
Following the renovation in Frank Dining Hall, conduct another pilot program to gauge community support of implementing trayless operations.

Trayless dining operations in Frank Dining Hall with estimated cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions.

4.3.2 Increase purchase and consumption of local food on campus
The environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and transportation of food can be extensive. Purchasing local food - food that is grown and processed within 250 miles of the institution  - can minimize these impacts.  Smaller, more local farms - as opposed to larger, intensely commercialized agribusinesses - often produce food in a more sustainable manner by employing organic growth methods, low tillage, efficient irrigation, less chemical inputs, and promoting a diversified crop base.  These farming practices help to minimize agriculture’s impact on the environment.  Purchasing food from local producers also brings us in closer contact with the farmer thus forming stronger community bonds while at the same time boosting the local economy. 

Current practices and recent accomplishments:
Spring 2010 ENST 480 students concluded that Colgate is currently purchasing about 15% of its food from within a 200-mile radius of campus.  However, this was a ballpark figure and a more accurate estimate would be extremely beneficial for benchmarking purposes.  Additionally, during fall semester 2010, Colgate community members placed 73 orders to the Colgate Drop Site, totaling $1,541 in sales through CNY Bounty.

By 2015, 30% of Colgate's food purchases come from local sources (within a 250-mile radius). 

Metrics and Timeline:

By 2015, 30% of Colgate's food purchases come from local sources (within a 250-mile radius).
By 2015, the Colgate community exceeds $10,000 in annual purchases from CNY Bounty. 

Recommended Action:

Formally define "local" for Colgate University.
Benchmark the amount of food grown and processed within a 250-mile radius of Colgate. 
Dining Services more clearly and consistently advertises local options.