Dining Services Sustainability Initiatives 

Pitt Sustainability Plan

The Pitt Sustainability Plan, released in January 2018, sets goals for a number of areas related to Dining Services under the Food Systems Impact Area. The vision for Pitt Dining by Sodexo is to "build food systems that support a healthy body and healthy planet, strengthen local communities, and minimize waste." The Plan serves as a roadmap for our sustainability efforts in Dining Services and builds on our longstanding commitment to students, the University, and the community.

Real Food Challenge

During a Pitt Student Government Board meeting on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 Chancellor Gallagher signed the University of Pittsburgh onto the Real Food Challenge, making Pitt the first university in the ACC to sign onto the challenge to serve 20% “real food” in Market Central by 2020.

“Real Food” refers to food served in Market Central that meets at least one of four “Real Food” criteria:

  • Local & Community-Based (an independently-owned business within 250 miles of Market Central)
  • Fair (fair-trade certified)
  • Ecologically Sound (USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, etc…)
  • Humane (animals not raised in a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation)

In a statement to the Pitt News, Chancellor Gallagher explained why the university decided to take on the Real Food Challenge, explaining that “not only is the cause worthwhile… it’s good for the animals, the participants, the workers and the environment.”

The signing came a year and a half after students brought up the idea with university administrators and began working with Pitt Dining to determine the current status of “real food” in Market Central. Working alongside Pitt Dining, Real Food Challenge interns determined Market Central served 9% “real food” at the time of signing, an already impressive number considering the national average for universities before signing on to the challenge is between 4-7%. This unique partnership is in part possible thanks to an agreement signed in April 2013 between Real Food Challenge and Sodexo North America to improve food chain transparency for students looking to calculate the “real food” status at their universities.

As of summer 2017 we've achieved 13% "Real Food" in Market Central and are on track to reach 20% by 2020.

Here are a few "Real Food" products you can find everyday in Market Central:

  • Apples - Dawson's Orchard - Local
  • Applesauce - Knouse - Local
  • Cabbage - Yarnick's Farm - Local
  • Chicken - Gerber Poultry - Local
  • Coffee - Aspretto Coffee - Ecologically Sound & Fair (USDA Organic & Fair Trade)
  • Guacamole - Calavo - Ecologically Sound (USDA Organic)
  • Milk - Schneider's Dairy - Local
  • Mushrooms - Monterrey Mushrooms - Local
  • Peppers - Yarnick's Farm - Local
  • Pickles - Hermann's Pickles - Local
  • Quinoa - UNFI - Ecologically Sound (USDA Organic)
  • Ricotta Cheese - Emerald Valley Artisan - Local
  • Tofu - West Soy - Ecologically Sound (USDA Organic)
  • Zucchini - Yarnick's Farm - Local

Real Food is a student movement and is always in need of students to help educate the campus on the importance of supporting Real Food. If you're interested in becoming a member of Real Food, contact nick.goodfellow@pitt.edu

Farmer's Market at Pitt

The Farmer's Market at Pitt occurs every Thursday in fall 2018 from 10:30am - 2:00pm in the William Pitt Union driveway across from the Soldiers and Sailors memorial. The market runs from August 30 until the Harvest Festival on November 1.

You can use your dining dollars, panther funds, lunch money, cash, credit/debit to purchase produce from JP Farms, delicious baked goods from The Pie Place, artisan bread with locally-grown ingredients from Mediterra Bakehouse, fresh-pressed juices from Salud Juicery, ice cream from Pittsburgh's own Millie's Homemade, and to-go meals from Revival Chili, SaludPGH, and Big Poppa's Homecooking.

We are one of the few college dining programs that allows students to use money from the meal plan at campus farmer's markets. We're proud to support local business and farmers and we hope you enjoy the Farmer's Market! Be sure to Like the Farmer's Market at Pitt on facebook to add the markets to your facebook calendar.

Farmer market at Pitt every Thursday


Local Sourcing

Fresh ingredients are always the best - and luckily we've got plenty of them! We work with our local produce distributor Paragon to identify farms that grow delicious produce that we can use across campus. Through the Real Food Challenge we're committed to increasing the amount of local food we purchase on campus so expect to see more local produce and food products in the coming months! Here's a map identifying a few of the local products we purchase for Market Central and the Perch.

Food Recovery

Student volunteers from the student group Food Recovery Heroes (a local chapter of the Food Recovery Network) have been collecting surplus food from several locations on Pitt’s Oakland campus since fall 2014. Surplus food is safely delivered to local agencies that are able to feed families and communities fresh, nutritious meals rather than canned, sodium-heavy, non-perishable foods.

Since the fall 2014 semester, students and Pitt Dining Services recovered and delivered more than 16,000 lbs of food to local agencies. Student volunteers currently recover food from the Oakland Bakery & Market, Market Central, Market Kosher, Einstein's Posvar, and Einstein's Benedum. Together students, Dining Services, and the local food recovery organization 412 Food Rescue are working to expand recoveries to dining locations across campus.

In May 2016 the University of Pittsburgh's Dining Services became Food Recovery Verified by the Food Recovery Network. Pitt is the first school in the ACC to be Food Recovery Verified. Look for the Food Recovery Verified sticker on dining locations and know that together our campus is working hard to feed people, not landfills.

Food Recovery Heroes were won the 2017 Sustainability Award for their committment to fighting food waste and feeding people. We're incredibly proud of these students for their committment and are pleased to work with them.

The Food Recovery Heroes are always in need of volunteers to help with food recovery. Recoveries take on average 20-30 minutes and can make a big difference to our neighbors facing hunger. Volunteering with Food Recovery Heroes can count towards OCC credit hour for service. Those interested in volunteering should email FoodRecoveryHeroes@gmail.com


Food Waste

Did you know that 25% of all freshwater used annually in the United States goes to produce food that is never eaten?

Along with engaging in food recovery, Pitt's Dining Services is committed to fighting food waste throught our operations. In spring 2016 we conducted our first food waste audit at the Perch in Sutherland Hall. The audit served as a benchmark for our waste reduction efforts at that location. You can read the full report here. Goals for food waste reduction that developed from that audit include full engagement in food recovery, a 10% reduction in post-consumer plate waste, and the launch of a new educational campaign to (1) raise awareness of the problem of food waste, (2) showcase the efforts Pitt's Dining Services is making to reduce food waste, and (3) give students the tools and information to reduce food waste as they dine on campus.

Pitt Dining continues the fight against food waste in the 2017-2018 acaedmic year. We will be performing our second food waste audit of Market Central on Sept. 20 and a follow-up audit of the Perch on Sept 12. Please email nick.goodfellow@pitt.edu if you would like to volunteer for the food waste audit. These are very large efforts to document food waste and we appreciate all the help we can get! Volunteers will be compensated for their time with a student meal card.


Greywater system in Market Central

An EnviroPure Greywater decomposition system was installed in Market Central over the summer and is ready to handle all food waste starting in August 2016! Check out this video to learn how the greywater system works.

EPS How It Works-original mp4-1920x1080 from T&S Brass on Vimeo.

Composting at the Perch in Sutherland Hall

Starting January 9, 2017 the Perch in Sutherland Hall will compost all food waste generated from the facility! Based on food waste audit data we expect to divert 33 tons of food waste from landfill to compost each semester.

Food waste including uneaten leftovers on a diners plate, kitchen prep trimmings, tea bags, and napkins can all be composted. The compostable waste at the Perch is collected by AgRecycle, a commercial compost facility in Braddock, PA which is able to turn the material into soil within 90 days.

Food waste is usually sent to landfill where it decomposes anaerobically, a process which releases methane -- a greenhouse gas 80x more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Landfills account for 23% of U.S. methane emissions. Compost facilities like AgRecycle expose the decomposing waste to oxygen so it does not release methane. This process also recovers the nutriends left in the food waste that would otherwise have been lost in landfill. You can learn more about composting in the U.S. at the EPA's webiste.

Based on data collected from food waste audits, we expect to divert 33 tons of food waste from landfill to compost each semester. That's a greenhouse gas savings equivalent to taking 13 cars off the road!

Composting service is currently only available at the Perch and for Zero-Waste events. If you are interested in composting at your Zero-Waste event on campus, please contact Pitt Dining Sustainability Coordinator Nick Goodfellow at nick.goodfellow@pitt.edu




NEW! Food Waste Drop-Off Stations to Compost Your Food Waste

We hear from a lot of students, faculty, and staff who want to compost their food waste in a dorm or office. Working with Facilities Management, The Green Team, the Student Office of Sustainability, and Student Affairs we're excited to launch the Food Waste Drop-Off Station at the Pitt Farmer's Market! Every Thursday in the fall during the Farmer's Market you can stop by the Food Waste Drop-Off Station with food waste from your dorm or home and we'll compost it! Check out the flyer below -- we use an industrial composter so you can compost animal products like bones and cheese! Please avoid dropping off liquids though as they're a bit messy.


The BYO[Bag] (Bring Your Own Bag) program launched through Pitt Housing & Dining in 2014 after more than five years of student initiatives to reduce plastic bag use on campus including a campaign that collected and recycled more than 20,000 plastic bags from students.

After the add/drop period at the beginning of each semester students are charged $0.25 for every plastic bag they use when shopping at dining locations on campus. This fee is completely avoidable – all you have to do is BYO[Bag]!

The best part of the BYO[Bag] program is that 50% of the proceeds from the bag fee as well as 50% of the sales from the BYO[Bag] reusable bags ($6 at QuickZone stores and the Oakland Bakery) will be donated to the Pitt Green Fund to support other student sustainability initiatives like BYO[Bag]. More information about the Pitt Green Fund can be found here: https://pittgreenfund.com/

Since the program began in 2014 we've prevented more than 1,000,000 plastic bags from being used! We've also raised more than $3,700 for the Pitt Green Fund and in January 2017 the University Store on Fifth and the Pitt Shop adopted the BYO[Bag] policy.


Following the success of the BYO[Bag] campaign, Dining Services has relaunched it's reusable mug program as BYO[Mug]. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors are encouraged to use a reusable mug to reduce disposable cup waste and reduce their environmental impact. Customers can save 25 cents on espresso beverages when they use a reusable mug or pay just 99 cents for brewed coffee (hot or iced).

In case you haven't done the math yet, you can save a lof of money by using a reusable mug instead of ordering your coffee in a disposable cup! You could save $150/semester just by using a reusable mug for one cup of coffee each day instead of a disposable cup! And you can save even more money by using a BYO[Mug] frequency card available at your nearest Campus Bean Scene location.

Participating locations include: Cathedral Coffee, the Oakland Bakery & Market, RxPresso, Hill O'Beans, Cafe Victoria, Common Grounds, University Store Cafe, Side Bar, Cup & Chaucer, Langley Simply to-go, and Bunsen Brewer.

Customers are asked to remove the lid of their mug before they hand it to the casier. Only mugs with lids may be accepted. For safety reasons we cannot make drinks in glass containers such as Mason jars. Reusable mugs must be no larger than 24 ounces.

Plant-based dining on campus

Since 2015 Pitt Dining has earned an "A" score on Peta2's Vegan Report Card. Dining locations like Market Central and the Perch always offer meatless options for students as do many of the retail locations on campus including Taco Bell and Einstein's Bros. Bagels.

Starting in January 2017 Pitt Dining launched the Veg Collective. The Veg Collective's purpose is to facilitate collaboration between Pitt Dining staff and students around plant-based food served on campus and to engage the greater student body about eating more plant-based foods. The Veg Collective monthly meetings are an established time for students to discuss plant-based food with Pitt Dining chefs, cooks, and managers. Through this discussion space, the Veg Collective works to make campus dining more sustainable and create a food culture shift on campus. You can join the Veg Collective on Facebook - look for the group by searching "Pitt Veg Collective" (please note the Facebook group is only accessible to University of Pittsburgh students).

During the 2017 spring break we hosted a two-day plant-based culinary training with the Humane Society for chefs and cooks from Market Central & the Perch. Our culinary team learned more than 90 recipes and numerous tips and tricks in the kitchen from Humane Society chefs Wanda White and Ken Botts in an effort to take our plant-based food offerings to the next level.

Following the training we launched a pop-up station in Market Central called Forward Food. We were curious to see how popular a dedicated plant-based station in Market Central would be and we were pleasantly surprised to find out that students loved it. Back by popular demand the Forward Food pop-up is now a permanent fixture in Market Central, serving delicious, nutritious, and sustainable plant-based (vegan) meals for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Check out the weekly menu here.

Zero-Waste Catering

Since 2015 Campus Catering has been committed to supporting zero-waste/low-waste events by providing compostable plates, cups, utensils, and napkins. Starting in August 2017 these products will be available to clients booking catering service for no additional charge! If you are pursuing a Green Events Certification for your event, Campus Catering is here to help. We also can provide vegetarian and vegan catering to meet your needs for a low carbon paw-print event. To book a catering event, please call 412-648-2302 or email catering@pc.pitt.edu and be sure to let our catering sales rep know you are hosting a zero-waste event.

Fossil Free Fuel

Dining Services gives all of its waste cooking oil from Market Central, Cathedral Cafe, the University Club, and Schenley Café to Fossil Free Fuel through the Refuel Pittsburgh initiative. Fossil Free Fuel converts waste fryer grease into automotive fuel for use in diesel engine vehicles and machinery. Replacing diesel fuel with vegetable oil improves local air quality, water quality and keeps fuel dollars in the regional economy. To learn more about this process visit: https://fossilfreefuel.com.

Energy Star Appliances and Track Lighting System

Dining Services utilizes a variety of energy star appliances including walk-in coolers, hoods, dishwashers, and air screen coolers. These appliances have been certified as using less energy than conventional ones. 

For more information on Energy Star Appliance, go to www.energystar.gov

Market Central, the largest dining facility on-campus, recently switched to a Lutron lighting system. The new lighting system allows individual zones to be powered down once a specific platform in Market is closed. The new system conserves energy by only providing lighting to areas that need it.

Sustainable Cleaning

Eco Lab Apex Warewashing Systems are used in all Dining Services facilities to wash flatware, utensils, and cookware. Using these appliances reduces our chemical waste by 30%.

Trayless Dining

Dining Services removed all trays from both of its largest all-you-care-to-eat facilities in the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year. Eliminating the trays has been highly effective in reducing food waste by preventing students from loading up their trays with large amounts of food that typically end up in the trash. Thousands of gallons of water as well as a large quantity of dish detergent have also been saved because of the decreased number of dishes and the lack of trays to wash.


For questions, comments, or suggestions on Sustainability in Dining Services, please email Dining Services Sustainability Coordinator Nick Goodfellow - nick.goodfellow@pitt.edu

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