University Housing fishes for sustainability in dining halls

A+student+dishes+out+the+seafood+boil+at+LAR%E2%80%99s+seafood+night+on+Oct.+26.+University+Dining+continues+to+search+for+and+maintain+sustainable+food+practices+in+the+dining+halls+around+campus.
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University Housing fishes for sustainability in dining halls

A student dishes out the seafood boil at LAR’s seafood night on Oct. 26. University Dining continues to search for and maintain sustainable food practices in the dining halls around campus.

A student dishes out the seafood boil at LAR’s seafood night on Oct. 26. University Dining continues to search for and maintain sustainable food practices in the dining halls around campus.

Kenyon Edmond

A student dishes out the seafood boil at LAR’s seafood night on Oct. 26. University Dining continues to search for and maintain sustainable food practices in the dining halls around campus.

Kenyon Edmond

Kenyon Edmond

A student dishes out the seafood boil at LAR’s seafood night on Oct. 26. University Dining continues to search for and maintain sustainable food practices in the dining halls around campus.

By Samantha Boyle, Staff Writer

The University dining hall staff is working to promote sustainability by collaborating with the Sustainable Student Farm and fishing companies around the Champaign-Urbana area. 

Dawn Aubrey, director of University Housing for Dining Services, said she views sustainability as having three aspects: people, planet and profit. However, according to Aubrey, profit should be viewed as financial sustainability.

“We could come up with something that’s absolutely stupendous, but if it’s something that’s financially burdensome, we haven’t helped you,” Aubrey said.

Aubrey said that about two years ago, the University started serving Asian carp to help the ecosystem.

The Asian carp is an invasive species that reproduce fairly quickly and do not have any predators, so if they exist in an ecosystem, they will take over quickly.

Allen Hall showcased the Asian carp Thursday to promote sustainability in the dining halls, specifically in fishing.

“It’s about eating them to a point where we can reduce the size of the population,” Aubrey said.  

“(In) over half the United States you have this fish picking up a lot of the food chain,” said fisherman Clint Harvey.

Harvey said Asian carp are not only invasive, but dangerous, too.

“They jump out of the water. So these fish that can get up to 15 pounds can jump into boats unexpectedly,” Harvey said.

To Aubrey, being sustainable means to not have a negative impact on the environment.

The dining halls practice sustainability in many other ways as well. Nine years ago, University Dining helped bring about the Sustainable Student Farm.

Aubrey said her team likes the food served in the dining halls to be grown and produced locally, aided by the student farm.

The pizza sauce served at the FAR dining hall is entirely produced on campus, Aubrey said.

Another way the dining halls practice sustainability is through recycling and repurposing.

“We’re the only department on campus that recycles glass,” she said. “We actually have encouraged other departments to bring us their glass. We’re happy to recycle it.”

Coffee grounds are also recycled, and the dining halls are always looking for ways to repurpose, Aubrey said.

“An item might be waste, but if you can repurpose it, then it’s a way of reducing that carbon footprint,” she added.

The University has been nationally recognized for sustainability and recently was awarded an A+ from PETA for the amount of vegan options that University Dining serves.

Aubrey said not many students are aware of how sustainable the dining halls are, but think it is important to promote.

“It makes me really sad because I would say that the majority of our students have no idea,” Aubrey said. “Having a net-zero carbon footprint, that’s our ultimate goal.”

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