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I. Introduction

Food is necessary for humans to survive, but the wastes, chemical byproducts, and inefficiencies in its production can have an immense impact on the environment. People demand perfect inexpensive year round food, which increases the use of pesticides, herbicides, and preservatives depleting the precious ozone, contributing to global warming, and polluting our lakes and streams. Not only are these types of chemicals a reason for alarm, but the packaging also contributes to the amount of toxic chemicals and solid waste building up on the planet. Because of its use with food, little of the packaging is recyclable or made from recycled materials.

What an individual chooses to eat not only affects his or her own health, but has an impact on the rest of the world as well. For every pound of beef produced cattle must consume over four pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water, when the grain and water itself could have saved many more people from famine. Sometimes raising livestock means decimating existing ecosystems for farmland and grazing fields. The livestock raised in these fields also produce a substantial amount of waste, much of which run into the surrounding rivers and streams.

Approximately 3,411 students reside on campus and make use of the University’s food services on a daily basis. A large proportion of off-campus students, staff, and faculty make use of the food services as well. There is currently one main dining hall on campus, Blackhawk Commons, and twelve campus dining satellites as listed; Crescent Café, three MiTaza Coffeehouse locations, Brick Oven Pizza, Burger King, Center of the Plate, Sub Connection, Flash in the Pan, Farmers Market, Good to Go, and Stone Willy’s.

II. Responsible Parties

  • The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh contracts out their food services, currently Sodexho, Inc. is in charge of those operations. Michel Landel is the President and CEO of Sodexho
  • Susan Fukushima is the General Manager of Sodexho at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
  • John Schwulst is the Operations Manager of Sodexo at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
  • University Dining is in charge of the meal plans and other things that affect students and the University directly. Marty Strand is the Assistant Director of University Dining. Marty is also the client liaison for the University’s contract with Sodexho.
  • Lisa Siwik is the Resident Dining Manager and oversees the dining concerns of resident students.
  • There is currently a Food Committee set up through the United Students in Residence Halls. On this committee is a chairperson that is appointed through USRH and representatives from every residence hall, Oshkosh Student Association, and Reeve Union Board. Also on the committee are various other students that attend the University and representatives from Sodexho, University Dining, and an Advisor from USRH. Adam Kinjerski is currently the USRH Food Committee Chair.

III. Food Services at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

A. Sodexho’s Company-Wide Reputation

Sodexho's mission is to improve the quality of daily life for people whenever and wherever they come together. Sodexho has an Environmental Awareness Policy and they acknowledge that central to achieving their mission is to recognize that they have a duty to protect our environment. According to Sodexho, sensitivity to environmental issues is an integral part of their way of doing business. Being socially responsible is also central to this commitment and the reason why they have become the first company in the food industry to endorse the Global Sullivan Principles of Social Responsibility. The Global Sullivan Principles are a corporate code of conduct developed by the late civil rights leader Rev. Leon Sullivan. As a Global Sullivan endorser, Sodexho has agreed to support a variety of corporate responsibility initiatives related to human rights, equal opportunity, business ethics, and protecting the environment.

As a company their most successful and generous support is with the national Recycle Mug program, available to colleges and Universities across North America, including ours. Not only does use of this mug substantially reduce waste, but also every sale of the mug directly benefits the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Recycle Mugs offer discounted prices for refills of coffee and carbonated soft drinks to encourage more frequent use and reduce waste. Sodexho donates $.15 from the proceeds of every mug sold to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Since the beginning of this program in 1993, more than 800,000 cups have been purchased and over $200,000.00 has been presented to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, company wide. This money helps support the nonprofit foundation's goals of environmental education, natural resource management, habitat protection, and ecosystem restoration.

Sodexho has also been an active member of industry coalitions that encourage legislators, manufacturers and consumers to jointly develop rational, not reactionary, strategies to today's environmental needs. They insist that they select their manufacturing partners watchfully. Fort Howard, which is their largest company wide contracted supplier of paper, napkins, tissue, and towels uses recycled fiber exclusively in their manufacturing process. Mobil Chemical, their primary contracted source for plastic can liners, uses from 30% to 90% recycled materials in their plastic liners. Sweetheart Cup, Solo Cup, Amoco, Dart and Mobil, also large suppliers, all use pre-recycled material in the manufacture of foam plates, bowls and food containers. Sodexho insists that it will continue to form alliances with business organizations that are ecologically sound and responsible.

B. Sodexho at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh entered into its contract with Sodexho in June of 2001. The contract allows for annual renewal for up to seven years. Therefore the contract, as we know it today, will end in June 2008. The contract consists of the University’s request for proposal and Sodexho’s response. The largest supplier to this campus is Rienhardt, who is a major distributor in our part of the country. Their commitment to environmental and social responsibility was considered by the Purchasing Department however they were not selected for this sole reason.

The University’s groceries are packaged in typical fashion. Canned goods, cardboard boxing, and some plastic bagging are all utilized. Other non-edible products purchased include sanitary goods such as gloves, napkins, styrofoam plates and cups, plastic utensils, etc and cleaning products. Although the napkins used on campus are recycled, other non-edible products are not purchased as recycled because of their contact with food. All of the cardboard used by Dining Services is collected and recycled by the University and the glass and tin cans are recycled as part of their garbage pick-up services. The water used to pre-rinse china in the dishroom at Blackhawk utilizes recycled water. The used oil for cooking is also picked up to be recycled. Napkins and other food waste are thrown away. Napkin waste however, has been substantially reduced by placing napkin holders at each table versus only placing them near the silverware.

It is difficult to estimate the amount of packaging that is thrown away by students each day, so the number of meals, and what is typically used each meal was calculated to get some idea of the waste generated. Blackhawk’s To-Go Room services an average of 750 guests each day, indicating approximately 97,500 meals per year. A variety of packaging is used in this operation but it is assumed that each person at least uses one 16-ounce Styrofoam cup and either a plastic container for food or Styrofoam container. Stone Willy’s located in Scott Hall services an average of 1,200 guests each day or 156,000 meals per year. Most of our disposable ware is in the form of paper at this operation however every one of those meals includes a Styrofoam cup as well. Reeve Union and other campus satellites utilize some 4,000 Styrofoam plates and cups each week or 104,000 plates and cups annually. Washable plates and silver are used whenever possible. In other words; if food does not need to be portable or packaged to-go, we utilize ware washing. Blackhawk Commons and catering services utilize washable plates and silverware as primary eating utensils.

In the last two years waste has been significantly reduced with the implementation of the Ultimate Dining program. Food is now prepared in small batches based on customer flow. Previously Dining Services would estimate demand and prepare large batches, which would be place in food warmers. For liability reasons Sodexho’s corporate policy is to not donate or reuse leftover food products. However, food products that are stable but close to their expiration date, usually within 48 hours of it’s production such as packaged sandwiches and day old bakery are donated to the Christine Ann center, a local domestic abuse center or to Father Carr’s Shelter and Wellness Center on a regular basis. None of the leftover food on campus is composted.

Currently none of the products purchased by Sodexho are organically grown or chosen based on their lack of chemical additives. Some foods offer less chemical additives; e.g., Potato Chips, but are not selected on this merit alone. Susan Fukushima contributes this trend to the cost difference of these products. Any increase in the cost of grocery products would lead to an increase in the price of student’s meal plans. However, past attempts have been made to pass a resolution through the Student Assembly which would urge Sodexho to purchase it’s eggs from a local, organic farm cooperative raising student’s food plan costs by approximately $3.30 per semester. This resolution has yet to be passed through the student body. A copy of the resolution is included in the appendix.

Based on the dollar volume of food purchased, approximately 23% of the total food purchases are meat and seafood. Sodexho provides a vegetarian option for every meal served at Blackhawk Commons, Good-To-Go, and Stone Willy’s. Nutritional information is provided for all menu items in a binder that is available for students to view and Burger King’s nutrition facts are on the wall next to the restaurant.

IV. Recommendations:

For Sodexho:

  • Request product information regarding ingredients and processing practices from all companies that supply Sodexho food. Make this information available to students on a website or in the form of small signs on the food serving containers.
  • Purchase products made without chemical additives or pesticides, whenever they are comparable in quality and price. Label these products or ingredients as organic or denote them by an icon on all menus and signs.
  • Begin offering an organic option in the commons every week. With sufficient student demand increase this quantity until most meals include this option.
  • Expand the use of EarthShell Packaging, a current disposable dinnerware supplier of Sodexho, to include all service areas.
  • Strive to make vegetarian options more appealing, reasonably priced, and convenient for students.
  • Include information about the following programs on the Dining Services website; Recycle Mug Program, Our Manufacturing Partners, Environmental Awareness Policy, and What you can do. Examples can be found at:
  • Conduct a Waste Stream Audit as is outlined in Sodexho’s Environmental Action Program. Make this information available to students and administration.
  • Revitalize the provided vegetarian options by including higher protein content in these meals. A vegetarian student can have a hard time meeting their nutritional requirements with macaroni and cheese or veggie pizza. Offer meals with a larger variety of legumes, soy, and other high protein ingredients.

For Administration:

  • Request product information regarding ingredients, processing methods, and suppliers for all food items supplied by Sodexho.
  • Conduct a feasibility study of the composting of food wastes on campus.
  • Request the use of environmentally and socially responsible food products whenever the product is comparable in price and quality.
  • Create and participate in an educational campaign that actively promotes a de-emphasis on meat consumption. Perhaps the Student Health Center or Titan Well could initiate a program emphasizing the health benefits of eating low on the food chain or pesticide and herbicide free products. An example of these health benefits can be found at:

For Students:

  • Request product information from Sodexho regarding ingredients, processing methods, and suppliers for all food items.
  • Avoid eating foods that do not meet environmental and socially acceptable standards.
  • During a meal, use fewer dishes to reduce the water and energy needed to clean them.
  • Reduce the number of napkins used at each meal, take only what you need.
  • Reduce portions of meat content from your diet. A large demand for meat raises the price of cattle far above their nutritional value and encourages inefficiencies in the use of agricultural land.
  • Participate in the Recycle Mug Program or bring your own mug from home for beverage purchases.
  • Get involved with the University’s Food Committee.
  • Dine in rather than carrying out.
  • Use paper bags for carryout rather than plastic, where provided.
  • If you are a vegetarian, vegan, or enjoy vegetarian meals, join the Campus Vegetarians to help promote awareness on campus.
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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Last update: October 10, 2003
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2003