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Farewell, but not goodbye

Welcome to the blog for Sustainable Dining at Virginia Tech!

Over the years this blog has served as a way of sharing events, updates, and insight into sustainable dining on Virginia Tech’s campus. Over time, however, we’ve realized that the blog is no longer doing the best job of telling our story. As a result, we will be retiring the blog. While this site will still be accessible, the information will not be kept up-to-date and we will no longer post here.

Where CAN you find us?

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Earth Week, 2017

Happy Earth Week, Hokies!

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Throughout the week there will be fun events around campus hosted by the Environmental Coalition at Virginia Tech. You can see a full lineup of their events for the week here. Curious what Dining Services is doing to celebrate Earth Week? Checkout our sustainable dining events below!

  • Monday, 4/17 –

    • 11 AM – 2 PM: Reusable to-go promotion tabling at Owens Food Court. We will be working with SGA and the Office of Sustainability to promote reducing waste and “going green” with our OZZI containers. Take our “reusable to-go pledge” and grab some reusable to-go swag!
    • Visit D2 for a special local tofu bahn mi featured in the East Side Deli shop.
  • Tuesday, 4/18 – 

    • Visit Owens Food Court’s Carvery station for local pork loin and roasted sweet potatoes.
  • Wednesday, 4/19 – 

    • 11 AM – 2 PM: Reusable to-go promotion tabling at Turner Place.
    • Check out Turner Place’s Atomic Pizza for pizzas topped with vegetables grown on the Dining Services Farm. Turner will also have locally produced New York strip loin at their Fire Grill shop.
  • Thursday. 4/20 –

    • 11 AM – 2 PM: Sustainable Dining at VT and Farms & Fields will be tabling at the pop-up farmers market on the drillfield. Learn about Farms & Fields and snag some free samples, and grab some sustainable dining goodies! There will also be lots of amazing local vendors from the Blacksburg Farmers Market, so bring some cash!
  • Friday, 4/21 –

    • 11 AM – 2 PM: Reusable to-go promotion tabling at West End Market.
    • Come by West End Market’s JP’s Chop House for almond peppered North Carolina Trout with Beurre Noisette.

All week long Deet’s coffee shop will also be featuring two flavors of local Homestead Creamery ice cream.

What are you doing to “go green” this week? Let us know in the comments section below!

Local food spotlight: Sweetwater Baking Company


The Farms & Fields Project at Virginia Tech regularly features delicious local breads from Sweetwater Baking Company in their fresh paninis. Curious about the story behind the bread? We touched base with the bakers, Sam and Alison Siller, for today’s local food spotlight.

Located just forty miles south of campus in Floyd, VA, Sweetwater Baking Company makes hearth baked granolas, energy bars, nuts, and organic breads. Sam’s sister and brother in law started the company in 1995, and they offered the business to Sam when they moved. Sam enjoyed their bread and baked goods, so he and Alison decided to give bread making a try. While the process was humbling (bread making isn’t as simple as it sounds!), after thirteen years Sam and Alison have mastered the process.

Sweetwater Baking currently produces nine varieties of bread, which they make using fresh mountain water from a well on the couple’s land. Sam and Alison rely on simple, minimally processed ingredients such as coconut oil, unrefined salt, and rapadura, which is unrefined cane sugar. They bake the dough in a wood-fired oven, which allows for even heating. One of the challenges of making bread in a wood-fired oven is synchronizing the oven temperature with the time the bread is ready to bake. If the oven is too hot the outside of the bread burns, but if the oven is too cool the crust becomes too thick. While the baking process itself is quick (each loaf takes about 30 minutes), the entire process of making and rising the dough takes about two and a half days.

For Sam, one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is being able to provide people with comforting and nourishing food that is not readily available in the region. Bread making adds a rhythm to life, and Sam joking referred to their sourdough starter as being like “a pet you have to look after.”

Can’t get enough of Sweetwater Baking Company’s breads? In addition to getting them at the Farms & Fields Project, you can purchase their breads (along with cookies and granola) at the Blacksburg Farmers Market on Saturdays throughout the year.

Photos courtesy of Sweetwater Baking Company.

A New Year, and Some Exciting Updates!

Happy 2017, Hokies! It’s a new year, and a new semester here at Virginia Tech. As we gear up for spring classes, I want to introduce myself. My name is Gwyneth Manser, and I’m the new Sustainability Manager for Virginia Tech’s Dining Services (and Housing and Residence Life, too!).

A little about me: I recently completed my Master’s in Science in Geography at Portland State University, where my research and classes focused on food justice, urban agriculture, and sustainability. I also hold degrees in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Emory University. I’ve done everything from working on an organic farm to working as a park ranger, and in my spare time I enjoy cooking, gardening, and exploring the outdoors. I’m excited to learn more about Blacksburg, and to contribute to the ever-growing conversation about sustainability on campus.

Virginia Tech Dining Services has a long history of sustainability efforts, and many of those initiatives were spearheaded by previous Sustainability Coordinators and Interns working with Dining Services. My predecessors, Andy Sarjahani, Rachael Budowle, Elena Dulys – Nusbaum, and Rial Tombes, led the way by implementing and expanding a composting program, bringing reusable to-go containers to VT, and helping to expand the Dining Services Farm at Kentland Farm, to name but a few projects. From supporting zero waste events on campus to helping VT go “(styro)foam free” we’ve come a long way, but we still have further to go. I’m thrilled to be a part of that progress.

Have ideas about what we can do to help VT’s Dining Services “go green?” Have any feedback on our previous efforts? Feel free to leave a comment below, or tweet us at @VTGreenDining. You can also send me an email at gmanser@vt.edu. Don’t be a stranger!

Best,

Gwyneth Manser

Sustainability Manager
Dining Services and Housing and Residence Life
gmanser@vt.edu

VT Green Graduates, Class of 2016

Hard to believe that another year is gone, and that we’ll soon be sending some of our brightest Hokies off into life beyond Virginia Tech.

A lot can change in four years! When many of these green students first stepped on campus, Sustainable Dining Services had only just started composting in all the dining halls, was sourcing less than half the amount of the local food that is currently used, and hadn’t even began the reusable to-go program.

Many of this year’s graduates participated in activities during their time as students that made VT a more sustainable place. Even more have decided to take the pledge to live an earth-friendly lifestyle beyond college as a part of the Office of Energy & Sustainability’s Green Graduates of Virginia Tech program. To participate, graduating students post a picture and personalized pledge to the Facebook page, detailing how they will dedicate their careers and lives to sustainability. Some students cite specific actions they will take to reduce their environmental impact, while others explain how they plan to integrate sustainability into future jobs. Needless to say, the pledges are quite inspiring – read on to find some featured posts below.

We asked the curator of the Green Graduates page, Katy Shepard, to tell us a bit more about her favorite parts of the program. Katy (a grad herself!) mentioned that the heartfelt posts serve as more than just personal declarations – together, they make up a community of students who care about the future of the environment, who inspire and motivate others to elicit positive change. Katy also said that publicly posting the pictures and pledges allows for accountability – the more people can see the pledge a grad makes, the more likely they are to live up to their promise. Her favorite insight from the posts is that they help “folks to realize that in order to care about sustainability you don’t have to change every single thing you do – you do the things that you can to make a difference.” Outside of graduation season, Katy updates graduation throwbacks, and her ultimate goal is to create a supportive forum in which former green grads can share stories, advice, and even job openings with current participants.

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for – our featured posts:

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Makes us feel a bit nostalgic! These students have learned, grown, and made some pretty important changes over their years at Virginia Tech. We are thankful for all they’ve done to make our campus a better place, and excited to see what they do for the world.

Congratulations to the Class of 2016 – may you invent a healthy, bright, and green future!

Earth Week is Here!

HAPPY EARTH WEEK, VIRGINIA TECH!

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It’s a beautiful week to celebrate the planet we call home. Buckle up for exciting, earth-loving events from Monday morning through Friday evening and beyond!

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If you’re interested in checking out Earth Week events with VT Sustainable Dining, just walk into Turner Place, Owens, or D2 any day this week to enjoy our Lexicon of Sustainability Pop-Up Show. The entire collection will be available for viewing on Wednesday in the Squires Atrium, courtesy of the Environmental Coalition at VT.

The Sustainable Food Corps will also be tabling all day on Wednesday, so stop by their display outside Squires to learn more about their upcoming local food events! Then swing by the Blacksburg Farmers Market for some community mingling and an afternoon snack.

Interested in finding out about the other incredible events going on this week? Take a look at the full events listing on the EC website and like the Virginia Tech Earth Week Facebook page to get daily updates.

While this is a special opportunity to celebrate the Earth, we at VT Dining Services hope you live every week like it’s Earth Week! Let us know what your favorite events are, and please celebrate sustainably and responsibly!

Partner Spotlight: The Campus Kitchen at VT

This week, we sat down with Joanne Amposta, VT Engage Americorps VISTA member, about her work on the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech. While most people have heard about the Campus Kitchen, few can explain all of the work that the group actually does – this post will hopefully provide a taste of the operation and give due credit to the fabulous work that CKVT volunteers and employees do on a daily basis.

The Campus Kitchen project was started by DC Central Kitchen, a non-profit focused on food recovery, meal preparation, and diversion. The group was so successful in our nation’s capital that it sought to expand its work, but lacked the resources to build sustainable models in other communities. Instead of a centralized operation, DC Central Kitchen built the Campus Kitchen project, with the idea to outsource facilities and volunteers and help existing institutions function as food recovery hubs within their own communities. Virginia Tech’s chapter has been three years in the making, with three different VISTA volunteers brought on to plan, pilot, and implement the project. The VT chapter was the  48th Campus Kitchen to open, and since its official launch in Fall 2015, three more chapters have joined the growing national movement.

Since its launch last September, the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech has quickly filled its plate with activities, opportunities, and tons of volunteer power. Once a week, the group uses a kitchen space in Wallace Hall (through a partnership agreement with HNFE) to prepare 40-60 meals with food they collect from VT Dining Halls, and every day, volunteers collect and package leftover food from D2, West End Market, and (as of last week!) Owens. All meals and recovered food are hand-delivered daily to the Radford-Fairlawn Our Daily Bread. So far, the dedicated volunteers involved with the CKVT have successfully diverted over 10,000 pounds of campus food waste from the landfill and delivered it to community members in need!

What items are being diverted from dining centers, you ask?  VT Dining strives to minimize food waste by monitoring daily amounts being diverted and in turn, adjusting our production quantities.  Sometimes, items will no longer comply with Dining Services’ quality standards (for example: number of times food can be reheated, amount of time item should be held at certain temperatures), but are still edible.  These items are what get diverted to the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech and other area food banks.

There are so many Hokies who want to get involved with CKVT that the waiting list stretches over 80 names just to become a regular volunteer. If you are one of those names, do not despair: new opportunities to engage are always popping up, and the Campus Kitchen regularly sends volunteers to help at other hunger relief organizations and nearby food banks, such as Micah’s Backpack and the Giving Tree Food Pantry.

Joanne was excited to announce upcoming projects, such as a senior backpack program that uses dry ingredients only (quite the challenge!) and building a community garden at 3 Birds Berry Farm later this spring. Additionally, we hope to expand diversion efforts to Squires next! The Campus Kitchen’s appetite for activity only continues to grow, it seems.

The CKVT would not be the successful program it is today if not for its partnerships with Dining Services, VT Engage, and so many more. Although Joanne’s position with the Campus Kitchen is coming to a close, she is confident that student energy and leadership  will sustain the program into the future. If there’s anything to learn from the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech, it’s that hard-working Hokies and community collaboration can truly change the world.