contributing to a responsible food system
Our dining team strives every day to create a responsible dining program. From working to minimize waste, support local partners with responsible sourcing, and creating green dining facilities, we are always looking for new ways to care for our world through a sustainable food system.
Our chefs work closely with local food systems to source your food responsibly. To us, sustainable food means plant-based ingredients sourced from local and community-based vendors that are 3rd party certified as having been sustainably or responsibly produced and distributed.
From the 2018-2019 academic year to the 2020-2021 academic year, we are proud to say we have increased our third party certified sustainable and plant-based food and beverage sourcing from 27.3% to 43.5%, and we're just getting started!
Our team is passionate about incorporating local, seasonal ingredients into menus as much as possible. Elon Dining has implemented a preferential purchasing system that identifies food grown or produced within 150 miles, and its sustainable attributes. Local produce is harvested closest to its peak for a fresher, more flavorful nutrient-filled result. Not only do local foods tend to be fresher, local purchasing reduces transportation carbon emissions and invests money into community based operations. Look for locally grown signage to taste the best flavors our area has to offer, celebrate the seasonal selections, and support the efforts of our local community!
Plant-based foods (vegetables, whole grains, beans, etc) are proven to have a lower environmental impact than resource-intensive animal products. Through continuous recipe development emphasizing new, vibrant, and unique plant based options, Elon Dining provides diverse, complete-protein vegan dining options at all meals. McEwen Food Hall, Lakeside Dining Hall, Clohan Hall, and a number of our retail locations have menus dedicated to plant based options. Clohan Dining Hall, for example, has a couple stations that serve 100% plant-based menus daily, including made-to-order stir fry and a mezze bar.
Our livestock farmers and ranchers share our high standards for humane animal treatment and environmental sustainability. We source beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, and turkey from North Carolina farms using regenerative agriculture principles, and certified animal welfare practices. All meats are free of antibiotics, growth hormones, and are fed vegetarian diets.
We serve milk and ice cream from small herd dairies that utilize rotational pasture grazing. Pastured grazing allows cows greater mobility and quality of life, and reduces the impact of land and water usage.
We serve beef certified as Global Animal Partnership Step 4, meaning cattle are on open pasture at all times, which allows for natural grazing, enrichment, and eliminates pollution caused by cattle feedlots. By breeding for growth-efficient genetics, cattle require less feed, resulting in a smaller greenhouse gas footprint.
We serve pork certified as Global Animal Partnership Step 1, meaning pigs are free to roam and interact with each other, and free of gestation crates.
We serve chicken and turkey that are Certified Humane, which ensures poultry are hatched, raised, transported, and processed following animal welfare standards. Our chicken and turkey are raised naturally with access to enriched, uncrowded indoor/outdoor nesting, and self-regulated eating and drinking schedules.
We serve cage free eggs from hens in enriched colony housing, which allows natural behaviors like nesting, perching, scratching, and socializing.
Elon Dining also uses Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommendations to source seafood that is wild caught or farmed using responsible methods. Using continuously updated standards specific to North Carolina, we source only Best Choice or Good Alternative seafood.
Committing to Cool Food means reducing our greenhouse gas emissions associated with food purchasing by at least 25% by 2030. Cool Food Meals have a carbon footprint that falls below an established per-meal threshold that meals should meet by 2030. Elon Dining is working with the World Resource Institute to implement the Cool Food Meal badge on our menus to highlight these climate friendly dishes for discerning diners, while the Office of Sustainability tracks our food purchases and uses the Cool Food Calculator to analyze the results.
Fair Trade coffee is served in all residential, retail, and catering dining operations. Elon Dining Services recognizes the need for social and environmental responsibility towards farm workers, our customers, and our communities. Benefits of these programs for coffee farmers mean community development, health, education, and environmental stewardship. All three residential locations serve locally roasted Larry’s Coffee, which is certified organic, shade grown, and Kosher, in addition to being Fair Trade certified!
Sustainable practices extend to our facilities, where our team members work to ensure that daily operations contribute to a healthy environment.
Since 2019, McEwen has been a registered Green Restaurant with the Green Restaurant Association (GRA). As of the beginning of 2022, Lakeside and Clohan are both also registered with the GRA and McEwen has reached a 3-star ranking. This is meeting efficiency standards in water conservation, waste reduction, sustainable food, and pollution reduction.
The most important step to prevent food waste happens before our ingredients even reach our kitchens: matching food production to food consumption. Our teams track ingredient consumption and use daily for a more efficient and informed menu forecast. Click here to read about the food waste management system we use in Lakeside Dining Hall!
Each month, post-consumer food waste audits are conducted in our dining halls to record benchmarks, track improvements, and show students that they have an active role in our efforts to reduce waste. In 2019 Clohan Hall held the record for lowest food waste with 2.2 oz. per person.
In all dining locations, 100% of cooking oil that is no longer food safe is recycled into biodiesel. In 2019 we recycled over five tons of fryer oil, a carbon emissions offset equivalent to planting 1,297 trees.
Eliminating trays in dining locations conserves the water and energy that would be used for dishwashing, and effectively reduces consumer food waste.
Through the implementation of reusables and composting programs, education, practice, and careful planning, our teams strive to manage and reduce all forms of waste.
We compost all pre and post-consumer food waste from each of our kitchens across campus. Diverting our food waste to compost decreases our landfill footprint and contributes to nutrient-rich soil in North Carolina. In 2019 Elon Dining composted 160 tons of organic material. Click here to read an article about the third party company, Brooks Contractor, that collects and converts our compost!
Through giveaway events, discount incentives, and exchange programs, we try to make reusing as easy as possible. Each student with a meal plan is given a reusable to-go container at the beginning of the year for use at residential dining locations. Reusable stainless steel straw packs and camp mugs are available for purchase at Fountain Market. Bring your own mug or bottle to any campus dining facility to use (and reuse) for coffee and/or fountain drinks!
For times when reusables aren’t available, we provide 100% compostable silverware, cups, lids, and napkins. Help reduce our landfill waste stream by sorting compostables into the correct bins – look for the orange lids!
We recycle pre-consumer plastic, paper, cardboard, and aluminum, and partner with Elon University to provide post-consumer recyclable options when compostable ones are not available.