Pacific ranks in Top 10 for sustainable food and dining initiatives

broccoli and zucchini displayed in wooden box

Produce from the Ted and Chris Robb Garden is made available to students at weekly garden markets and at the school's food pantry.

University of the Pacific ranks in the top 10 for sustainable food and dining practices in a new report comparing hundreds of public and private colleges and universities around the world.

Pacific is one of three institutions in California listed in the top 10 of the food and dining category in the 2022 Sustainable Campus Index. The report is published annually by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education using self-reported data from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. 

The university also ranked in the top ten in 2021.

“Pacific is deeply committed to building a more sustainable future,” said Sustainability Director Jessica Bilecki. “We want to be leaders by educating our students on ways they can incorporate sustainable practices into their lives and creating a campus culture that encourages everyone to be good stewards of the environment and each other.” 

Pacific and its long-time food partner Bon Appetit have implemented a wide range of sustainability practices, such as the farm-to-fork initiative with 90% of food served on the Stockton Campus coming from farms within 150 miles. 

California’s Central Valley, where the campus is located, is one of the largest agricultural regions in the world. 

Bon Appetit amplified their efforts with the “Eat Local Challenge” held Sept. 24 in the Marketplace, the main dining hall in the DeRosa University Center.

“On that day, one meal at each station was 100% local. The only exception was salt,” said Sia Mohsenzadegan, Bon Appetit food service director. The event is held annually to raise awareness about eating locally.

Students are educated about growing sustainable produce at the Ted and Chris Robb Garden through hands-on learning. Food waste from the Marketplace is also used for composting. The garden’s produce is distributed to students for free every Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and later in the week at the university’s food pantry in Room 98 of Wendell Phillips Center.

Bon Appetit uses compostable utensils and to-go containers as well as reusable eco-clams, called the Tiger-to-Go program. The eco-clams can be purchased for a one-time fee of $5 and exchanged for a clean container when needed or returned for a token to be used later. 

“The compostable clamshells cost $1 every time you get one, so if you use the eco-clam for one meal a day for a week, you will already earn your money back,” Bilecki said. 

Excess food is donated every Friday to St. Mary’s Dining Room, a Stockton nonprofit that provides meals to people in need. 

The university is also striving to reach zero waste at catered events on campus by educating the community and making it easier to properly sort waste with the help of Pacific’s Green Team, a group of student volunteers, and clear signage. 

During Week of Welcome in August when students returned to campus, volunteers kept 90% of waste out of landfills by directing people to the proper bins for composting and recycling.

Other Pacific sustainability initiatives include: 

•    No. 1 among private universities in on-campus, renewable energy generation
•    No. 2 in the nation for the percentage of campus-owned vehicles that are 100% electric;
•    Using 100% non-potable water for irrigation on the Stockton Campus.