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FSA Reaffirms Commitment to Sustainability During Pandemic

Students and staff learn how they can eat healthier and more sustainably with a plant-based diet with fun options such as shaker salads in ball jars.

The Faculty Student Association (FSA) and CulinArt strive to provide an exceptional dining experience that is environmentally responsible, all while serving thousands of customers every day. They have made a commitment to reduce the campus’ environmental footprint and through collaborations with many departments and student groups the program has grown exponentially.

Students and staff learn how they can eat healthier and more sustainably with a plant-based diet with fun options such as shaker salads in ball jars.
Students and staff learn how they can eat healthier and more sustainably with a plant-based diet with fun options such as shaker salads in ball jars.

FSA is the proud recipient of the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Sustainability Award for Outreach and Education for the second year in a row (2019 bronze and 2020 silver). NACUFS recognizes and honors member institutions that have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the promotion and implementation of environmental sustainability, specifically as it relates to campus dining operations. This award supports the globally accepted triple bottom line philosophy, a method of evaluating operational performance by measuring financial success as well as environmental sustainability and social responsibility — also known as “people, planet, profit.”

FSA’s sustainability programs are based on a continuous cycle of research, reflection, improvement and communication, which is why education and outreach are paramount. “We strive to eliminate practices that trade off environmental health for monetary gain,” stated FSA Executive Director Van Sullivan. “While other schools have paused on their sustainability efforts, our dining team has been true to our commitment to sustainability by offering biodegradable takeout containers and canned beverages instead of plastics.” The Market at West Side and the Emporium at East Side convenience stores no longer offer plastic bags for purchase and instead sell reusable totes.

More than 25 articles have been published in external and internal media showing FSA’s leadership role in creating and implementing campus dining sustainable efforts. In addition, FSA has shared this thought leadership and know-how, offering advice to other colleges and universities across the nation in webinars hosted by national organizations such as the College and University Recycling Coalition, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the National Association of College Auxiliary Services. 

To bring the freshest produce to campus, Campus Dining sources about 89% of produce locally (within 250 miles) whenever available and in season. Buying local helps reduce transportation costs and exhaust emissions. Other responsible sourcing includes using 100% certified humane cage-free eggs, 86% eco/fair trade coffee, 93% antibiotic free chicken, 99% antibiotic free turkey, 100% hormone free yogurt, 99% hormone free milk and 72% of our seafood is sustainably sourced.

Sustainability Initiatives

While some initiatives are on hold due to COVID restrictions, FSA has found a way to offer them in a different way that is safe and responsible.

Teaching Kitchen

The Teaching Kitchen program offers students the opportunity to engage with our campus dietitian to expand food, culinary and nutrition literacy in a collaborative and team-building environment with the goal of positively impacting food choices and experiences. Students learn how they can eat healthier and more sustainably with a plant-based diet with fun options such as shaker salads in ball jars. This semester, FSA collaborated with Healthier U to host cooking demos with dietetic interns, guest chefs and the campus dietitian both in person and virtually.

The program’s success is measured in the ability to educate students on planning, waste not, cooking and eating better, more healthful meals at home. Benefits of this program include improved productivity, creativity, morale, team spirit and engagement with food service wellness initiatives. Participants reported an increased frequency of cooking at home or in dorms, a reduction of mealtime stress and an increase in appreciation of world cuisines and cultures.

Farm Share Program

The Faculty Student Association also operates the food service at Stony Brook Hospital. This fall, FSA partnered with Heart Beet Farms to offer a Winter CSA program and hosted a sign-up day at Market Place Cafe. The farm share program runs for 20 weeks from November 11, 2020 through March 24, 2021 and includes four to eight types of delicious, fresh, organically grown veggies per week/bag. You can also register online at wintervegetablecsa.com.

Rooftop Farm

On the roof of Stony Brook Medical Center is 2,242-square-feet of growing space, including 36 raised beds. The herbs and veggies from the rooftop farm are used to supplement patient meals and some of the produce is donated to the Stony Brook University student food pantry and Stony Brook Home (a free student-run clinic), the Stony Brook WIC program and Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson. The rooftop farm yields more than 1,500 pounds of produce annually.

The purpose isn’t just to grow produce; the farm is meant to inspire and get people thinking about farm to table, or in this case, farm to bedside. The farm is visible from patient rooms and from the new Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. This year FSA planted butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pickling cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and herbs, and has also grown different radishes including beautiful watermelon radishes. When rooftop farm items are utilized for patient meals, a small tent card is added to each tray letting them know that some of their food was grown on the farm at Stony Brook. The staff at Stony Brook Hospital offers tours and healthy cooking and baking classes for students and community members.

“Stony Brook University’s approach to sustainability is based on an active commitment to continuous innovation and growth through partnerships with campus departments and student groups. We view sustainability as a journey, not a destination,” stated Kathleen Byington, Senior Vice President, Finance and Administration and FSA President and Treasurer.

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