Food and Nutrition
Dining facilities have a significant impact on the carbon footprint of colleges, which often purchase food that travels hundreds of miles to reach the campus, is grown with petrochemical-based pesticides and herbicides, and uses significant water resources. Traditional dining facilities send an enormous amount of waste to landfills, including both pre- and post-consumer food, cooking oil, packaging and paper goods. Conventional dish-washing practices send massive volumes of soapy hot water down the drain. Large quantities of conditioned air at cooking stations and lighting are significant energy wasters, and kitchens are often dark and hot working environments.
The concept of "sustainable food and nutrition" includes locally bought and farmed, "mindfully raised," "less processed" and "fresh" food. Many mass-farmed foods are not genetically diverse and don't have sufficient nutrient content; rather, they are farmed for their appearance and shelf life. Eating locally grown food is not a new concept, but in the 20th century, as farms moved west and many local farms were paved over, New Yorkers have been consuming brown lettuce and hard tomatoes while local farms went bankrupt. Locally, Greenmarket was a natural solution to a twofold problem: by selling their homegrown crops in New York, local farms could stay in business and bring fresh food to city neighborhoods. What began with 12 farmers in an empty lot in 1976 has grown into the largest network of its kind in the country, with rigorous "grow-your-own" standards.
Sustainable food goes beyond the edibles themselves. Greening in this area also involves containers in which food is served (ceramic and glass instead of Styrofoam, plastic, etc).
Sustainability in food and nutrition is aimed at shortening the supply chain of food stuffs purchased by the University and improving the nutritional content of food prepared and offered at CUNY, in turn improving the health and eating habits of students, staff and faculty members. By purchasing a greater amount of seasonal and organic foods and sourcing these from local suppliers, supply chains will be shortened, reducing the greenhouse gases that result from transportation and high-intensity farming.
Brooklyn College is addressing these issues by:
- working on reducing the use of plastic and Styrofoam in the cafeteria,
- investigating the purchase of local food, and
- researching and monitoring ongoing opportunities to offer locally supplied and grown food as well as healthy and fresh-food options (vegetarian and organic foods, healthy oils and whole grains).