Greener Behrend: Goal 4, Food

Greener Behrend: Goal 4, Food


Increase the healthfulness of food and reduce its waste

Specific areas to be addressed include enhanced healthfulness of food served on campus and improvement of processes related to waste reduction: composting, recycling, and food purchasing policies in college dining facilities. Supplying additional vegetarian options, participating in an “eat low on the food chain” program, and initiating composting will all address this goal.

Food is the energy input needed for the human component of the Penn State Behrend system. The source of this energy can be some of the most damaging practices on the planet. It is estimated that it takes up to 10 calories of energy to grow one calorie of food in conventional agricultural practices. Most processes are heavily mechanical, most fertilizers and pesticides are made with petroleum products; crops are shipped to process plants, packaging plants, grocery stores, and finally your house. Run-off from agricultural areas contributes heavily to the pollution of bodies of water (one nutrient that contributes to Lake Erie’s pollution is phosphorous—an agricultural runoff).

College students are especially susceptible to unbalanced diets due to a number of factors (time restrictions, space to cook, first time on their own). One of the responsibilities of this group is to increase the healthfulness of available food and work on educating the Behrend community on healthy eating.

There are no accurate counts of the amount of waste that is created by food services at Behrend, but there are estimations based on a study done at University Park (Table). (Data from Warnock Commons is used because it is of comparable size to Dobbins.)

Table: Warnok Dining Commons Waste Production

Semester Type Amount Per Week
Fall 2001 (for 49,735 patrons during 13 week period-average of 3,825 patrons/week Green 12,706 lbs 977 lbs
Paper 817 lbs 63 lbs
Spring 2002 (for 24,166 patrons during 8 week period-average of 3,021) Green 7,601 lbs 950 lbs
Paper 246 lbs 31 lbs


Much of this waste could be turned into valuable compost, which could then be used for landscaping purposes. Turning the waste into compost would not only cut the amount of waste going to landfill, but would also cut maintenance cost associated with the purchasing of mulch and other fertilizers. A community garden/CSA could also benefit from a composting program. A composting program at Behrend could also help to educate the college/local community on the benefits of composting.

Behrend is setting a goal to increase the number of vegetarian/vegan meal options by ten percent in the next three years. These are the steps Penn State Behrend is taking to move toward that goal:

  • Bruno’s will look into offering a vegetarian soup everyday.
  • Bruno’s will attempt to offer more vegetarian options every day of the week.
  • A comment section has been added to Bruno’s Web page so anyone can make comments.
  • Housing and Food Services will expand their menu of vegetarian alternatives so there is a greater variety from week to week.

Increasing the amount of local food purchased by five percent is also another way Penn State Behrend is moving toward sustainability. Behrend is thinking about requiring that local vendors buy from local sources, helping the local economy, and decreasing the energy requirements associated with transporting food. Penn State could also offer assistance through its agriculture extension on sustainable farming techniques. A Community Supported Agriculture on the Behrend campus could be a source of additional revenue and can also provide community members with fresh, local produce.