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.

 

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#Freeusable Day Success!

Hokies made history last month!

On February 17-18th, VT Dining Services offered a free trial of the Reusable To-Go program in all participating dining halls. Almost two weeks’ worth of containers were handed out over those two days, and since the promo, there has been a marked increase of Reusable To-Go use campus-wide!

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For those of you who participated: thank you and welcome to the Reusable To-Go program!  You can keep ordering your food in those snazzy green containers as long as you keep returning them and hold on to your token. If you need a refresher on how to use the program, watch this short video.

Virginia Tech Dining Services staff wash and sanitize each individual container after they are returned to the OZZI machines, but don’t forget to make sure to empty excess food before returning your containers (if you’re keeping them overnight, kindly give them a rinse)! This makes for a faster and easier cleaning process.

Hokies have proven our commitment to sustainability – let’s keep making history!

Reduce Food Waste and Beat UVA!

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The VT Office of Energy and Sustainability is going up against its counterpart at the University of Virginia for a semester-long competition called the RiVAlry Cup. The kick-off to the Cup will be a food waste competition on Wednesday, February 24th in D2 from 11-2 (during lunch). Our goal is to generate as little food waste as possible – all you have to do is make sure you take only what you can eat and be ready to sort your waste before you return your dishes! Volunteers will be there to explain and help if you need it.

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If you want an idea of how much food waste VT students might generate on a normal day, we did a baseline waste audit last week and found that, on average, one Hokie at D2 throws away 0.22 pounds of food waste (the equivalent of two chocolate bars). Of this, 0.08 pounds are unavoidable and 0.14 pounds can be avoided. With over 500 lunch-eaters at D2 every day, this quickly adds up!

What’s the difference between avoidable and unavoidable waste? Glad you asked! We are categorizing avoidable food waste as the extra stuff that goes unfinished on your plate – like uneaten rice or veggies, that slice of cake you couldn’t finish, unused napkins, etc. Unavoidable waste includes banana peels, bones, used napkins, and other items that can’t be consumed but occur naturally through the eating process. Liquids do not count.

Don’t be embarrassed if you have a lot of plates to return (we’ve all been there…), and don’t feel like you have to stuff yourself to clean your plate. We hope that, on Wednesday and every day, you take only what you know you can eat and minimize food waste whenever possible!

Have fun and let’s beat UVA!

A Guide to Winter Vegetables

Even though it’s been an unseasonably warm winter*, we know we’re not the only ones missing fresh veggies and sunshine.

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*Minus that crazy snowstorm we had last weekend… The Duck Pond looked beautiful all in white! Photo by VT employee Ivan Morozov.

Sometimes during the winter months, it can feel like the produce pickings are slim – so to combat a brainfreeze while planning your winter meals, VT Sustainable Dining has devised a guide to help you select the most seasonal, cold-loving winter vegetables. Hopefully, armed with this list (and some easy, tasty recipes!), you’ll have so many veggie options that it’ll feel like the middle of summer again.  Some of these can even be found at your local market, grocery store (Eat’s, & Annie Kay’s) or campus eatery (Farms & Fields!).

Beets: these heart-healthy babies love the chilly temperatures, and they store well year-round. Roast these in the oven or try out this amazing beet and goat cheese salad recipe.

Brussels Sprouts: while these tiny veggies have earned a bad reputation, they are so easy and so delicious when properly prepared. Cover with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice (or cheese…) and roast, or if you’re feeling bold try this spicy brussels sprouts salad with almonds and mint.

Carrots: a tried-and-true snack. How about this roasted carrot salad (with kale, another winter veggie)? Hint: it also calls for bacon.

Cauliflower: ever heard of cauliflower mashed potatoes? No? It’s time you check that out.

Kale: this and other brassicas are tolerant of low temperatures and can grow in the ice and snow. Put them in the oven to make kale chips and they crisp up beautifully.

Radicchio: if you’ve never heard of this beautiful, purple-cabbage-cousin, don’t fear – there are many ways to prepare and consume it. You’ll be happier and healthier for trying it!

Winter Squash: did you know that most winter squash can be stored over three months in the right conditions? Make this amazing butternut squash lasagna recipe your next snow day project – just like the one served at Farms & Fields!

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Just going to leave this warm, cheesy squash masterpiece here to inspire you… Photo: @vtgreendining

This is just a short list of winter veggie options, but we hope at least one item inspired you to turn up the heat in the kitchen. And don’t despair – spring is less than 50 days away!

Here is also a reminder that the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market does indeed have winter hours (Saturdays, 10-2 from Jan. 1-March 31). Don’t let the winter blues keep you from eating healthy & local!

Local Food Spotlight: Blacksburg Bagels!

Wondering where the insanely delicious bagel you ate at Farms & Fields this week came from? Meet our featured local producer, Blacksburg Bagels: responsible for your delectable, doughy, ring-shaped snack!

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Hole-y moly, would you look at that spread!

Jessica and Pete – also known as the “Bagel Lady” and “Pie Guy” – have each been baking for a while, but only started working as business partners in the last couple years. Jessica, a Virginia Tech grad, started realizing her talent when she was a student involved with the Sustainable Food Corps. After apprenticing on a farm in Montana, she decided to bring her skills back home and pursue working with local markets full-time! Pete also has a VT background, and after many years working for the university, he decided he wanted to apply his business and communication skills to something he could sink his teeth into. From this, a beautiful, bountiful, bagel-baking business was born!

Although Blacksburg Bagels just started producing for Dining Services this year, they supply a wide variety of baked goods to businesses throughout Blacksburg and beyond. They also sell much more than just the obvious: their pitas, pies, pizza doughs, and breads are just a few examples of what’s usually on the menu. You’re most likely to catch Blacksburg Bagels at the downtown Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays (Gluten-free day! 2-6) and Saturdays (9-2). Hint: if you buy their t-shirt, you get free bagels for life (sorry – offer not valid in dining halls)!

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Grab one of these (or a dozen…) and some local veggies at the farmer’s market for a healthy Saturday lunch!

Perhaps the best part about Blacksburg Bagels – yes, even better than their buttery pretzels – is their love for sustainability and the local community. Because they don’t have an established bakeshop, Jessica and Pete are able to focus on working with and supporting other local businesses. This also means that they can create small, custom batches and develop their recipes – which is good for the rest of us, too!

Blacksburg Bagels is excited to be working with Dining Services, and the partnership means much more than just bagels on our plates: it means nourishing ourselves and our local community in a sustainable way.

Check out our twitter (@VTGreenDining) to make sure you catch Blacksburg Bagels on the Farms & Fields menu. Believe me – you don’t want to miss what they’ve baked up for us!

Reflecting on Blacksburg Sustainability Week

Hard to believe Sustainability Week was almost a month ago – hope you had as much fun as we did! While Sustainable Dining Services encourages eco-friendly behavior every week, we wanted to share our highlights from some of the fun events put on by Sustainable Blacksburg, both on campus and around town:

We caught you green-handed with your reusable to-go containers, shopping locally at the Farmer’s Market (with reusable bags!), and with your Dining Services reusable Camelbak water bottle:

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We enjoyed dining hall specials with locally-grown ingredients – this butternut squash lasagna at Farms & Fields was *so* yummy:

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Check back soon for a how-to recipe guide and make this dish at home!

Students and community members alike attended the documentary screening of “New Farms, Big Success” at the YMCA and learned all about the benefits of small-scale sustainable agriculture:

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Students cut the cars and “bike-mobbed” over to the Y for the event!

Thanks for making Sustainability Week so great, and keep up the good work! Don’t forget to check back here for more information about how to be more sustainable with Dining Services.

Celebrate Sustainability Week with Dining Services!

Happy Sustainability Week, Blacksburg!

Sustainable Dining Services has some exciting specials this week, plus we’d like to highlight events and activities that are going on within the greater community as well.

1. Taste the season’s first winter squash at selected dining halls this week, all grown at the Dining Services Farm at Kentland! Make sure to catch every one of these delicious specials:

  • At D2: Kentland Harvest Pizza – Roasted Winter Squash Medley, Mixed Herbs, Fall Greens, Caramelized onions, Bleu Cheese, Mozzarella cheese, Parmesan Cheese, and Balsamic Glaze (served all week)
  • At Owens: Pumpkin Pie (Tuesday & Wednesday), Buttercup Squash & Apple Bake (Thursday) – all at Sweet Temptations
  • At Turner: Apple, Butternut & Kuri Squash Bisque (all week, Soup Garden); Roasted tomato pizza (Tuesday & Thursday) Garlic scape and mushroom pizza (Wednesday), plus all marinara sauce will be from the farm (Atomic Pizza); Roasted beets and potatoes (Friday, 1872 Fire Grill)

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2. Attend the New River Land Trust’s screening of the documentary “New Farms, Big Success” – a film about three farmers who are working to develop an enduring, local food network in a time of climate change. The screening will be Tuesday (9/15), starting at 7 PM in the YMCA Building (1000 N. Main).

3. Make sure to use your Dining Services Reusable To-Go container and Camelbak water bottle for the chance to get #caughtgreenhanded! Caught Green Handed Ambassadors will be roaming campus and the Town, waiting to catch someone committing a sustainable act. Your picture could be featured on the Facebook page, plus you get a cool sticker!

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Visit Sustainability Week website for full list of events. Sign up for something fun and let us know what you try!