SMC eats Sustainably
Saint Mary's College and its food service provider, Good Eating Company, are committed to a more sustainable, healthier and equitable agrifood system. Below are some ways we are moving the needle.
Choose to Reuse
Saint Mary's is proud to serve 100% of to-go meals in reusable containers. Oliver dining hall offers patrons food to-go in a microwavable and dishwasher-safe clamshell container. The program is called "Choose to Reuse" and is as simple as: EAT, WASH, REPEAT. After using the container, diners can simply wipe out any large food residue and return it to the Oliver Hall cashier in exchange for a clean one. For more information on how the program works click here. Our former food service provider estimated that, prior to this program, over 2,000 paper plates were being used and disposed of daily in the dining hall. In Fall 2018, Saint Mary's Choose to Reuse program phased out paper plates altogether, saving trees, resources and reducing our carbon footprint. Returned containers each have the potential to displace more than 300 single-use containers in their lifetime. Ask your cashier in Oliver Hall for more information about these reusable clamshell containers.
Food Recovery Program
Saint Mary's food recovery program aims to tackle the dual issues of food waste and food access. The program recovers perishable food that would otherwise go to waste. Our dining hall works with White Pony Express to collect and deliver edible food and redistribute it to food resource centers.
Our on campus food pantry, The Gael Pantry, aims to address the unmet need of Saint Mary's students who do not have reliable access to sufficient, affordable and nutritious food. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Californians (20%) or 8 million people struggle with food insecurity (2020 Census). Saint Mary's, located in Contra Costa County, which oftentimes struggles with slightly higher rates than the state average, is not immune to this growing problem. Research suggests strong relationships between food insecurity and its serious impacts on well-being, poor school attendance and performance, lowered workplace productivity, and physical and mental health problems. The Gael Pantry meets these needs by offering a range of staple food items for free to all Saint Mary's students additional resources, please see the Gael Pantry website and SMC's Nutritional Support page.
As a Fair Trade College, Saint Mary's College is committed to sourcing coffee, tea, chocolate and other products from growers that ensure fair wages, safe working conditions that use sustainable practices. Fair Trade directly connects with our College's Catholic Lasallian principles with sustainable and ethical procurement.
Throughout the year, the Mission & Ministry Center offers monthly Fair Trade Fridays as well as semi-annual Fair Trade Festivals to educate our community on Fair Trade practices.
Climate Friendly Menu Offerings
Good Eating Company partners with the non-profit consultancies Greener By Default and Food For Climate League to use behavioral economics tactics to make climate friendly menus the norm at Saint Mary’s College. One example of this is that we make oat-milk the default for all drinks offered in the coffee bar. We also use our own house-made and purchased upcycled products. Highlight plant-based menus featuring simple ingredients and house-made vegan alternative meats. We have a goal of 50% plant-based entrees by 2025.
Good Eating Company at Saint Mary’s College measures, reports and works to reduce kitchen waste every day. During the 2022-2023 school year we improved our waste management from our baseline by over 50%, helping avoid over 4.5 additional tons of food waste. We work with our vendors to ship products in bulk whenever possible and we are working to eliminate single use plastics where possible in our operation.
After completing a recent sourcing audit for the 2023 AASHE stars process we are pleased to report that:
- 58% of the products we purchase are plant-based.
- 21% have sustainable attributes such as certified organic, grass-fed and fair-trade.
Additionally, 30% of our products from Small, Women, & Minority Owned organizations and over 20% of our produce is locally sourced.
The Good Eating Company has committed to investing 15% of our food spend with farms and ranches using regenerative growing practices by 2025. Our regenerative commitment is about combating climate change, improving local economic development, increasing biodiversity, and making our regional supply chains more resilient. Regenerative agriculture has also been proven to help improve the nutritional density of food.
One of our sourcing regenerative sourcing initiatives is a partnership with a local non-profit organization Kitchen Table Advisors who works directly with farmers who are looking to transition their fields to regenerative growing practices. The initiative was designed to center equity for BIPOC farmers, the goal being to create more market access, provide technical assistance and a guaranteed buyer for premium products. The produce is picked and then aggregated by a minority owned farm aggregator before it is brought to our distributor.
Good Eating Company's Sustainability Commitments
- Offer 100% of our consumers healthy lifestyle options every day.
- Encourage and educate the campus community around healthy lifestyle choices through our plant-forward and greener-by-default programs.
- Foster a culture of environmental responsibility within our workforce and on-campus.
- Train every GEC employee in sustainability practices.
- Promote local development, fair, inclusive and sustainable business practices by supporting small/medium local suppliers through purchasing local and seasonal produce.
- Emphasize social responsibility in our sourcing practices by increasing our procurement commitments from SME, BIPOC & woman producers.
- Reduce food waste at the source & through recovery towards a goal of zero avoidable waste by 2025.
Resources for Daily Food Choices
From social justice to public health to sustainability, our current agricultural production system is one of the most serious issues facing the planet.