When it comes to reducing our environmental impact, M Dining's top priority is mitigating greenhouse gas emissions which lead to climate change. This is an area that we have direct control over, from the foods we serve to the vehicles we drive. Our commitment builds upon work that we’ve already started to reduce emissions by sourcing responsibly, operating efficiently, minimizing food waste, and reducing single-use packaging in our dining locations. Many new efforts are now underway, from growing our climate-healthy menu options to completing a greenhouse gas inventory.
The products that we purchase have a direct impact on people, animals, and the environment, which is why it is so important to consider the environmental and social impacts through sustainable sourcing.
- Sustainable Seafood – Guided by our Sustainable Seafood Policy
- 98% of our frozen finfish purchases meet Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommendations
- 100% of canned skipjack and albacore tuna is sourced from Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries
- Animal Welfare Commitment - With guidance from leading animal welfare organizations, M Dining is acting on commitments towards sourcing humanely raised egg, meat, and dairy products.
- We purchase 100% Cage Free liquid and shell eggs
- 54% of pork purchases from all of our locations is group-housed, with the expectation to transition to 100% by the end of 2022
- Retail brands such as Oath Pizza have made a commitment to animal welfare by providing American Humane Certified proteins
- Climate-Healthy Menus – Through our “Healthy For Life” collaboration with the American Heart Association, we are pursuing a variety of menu strategies – from creating new recipes, improving existing favorites, and sourcing new ingredients, with a goal of reducing our impact on the environment.
- 34% of our main dishes are either vegetarian or vegan, which require less land, water, and energy to produce than animal-based protein dishes
- Our “Plant-Forward” menu items have plant-based proteins at the center of the plate, with the option to add additional animal proteins on the side
When food gets hauled away to the landfill, we pay for it five times over in labor, energy, water, transportation costs, and carbon emissions. We continually strive to eliminate waste before it is created through menu planning, customer forecasting, smart purchasing, customer education, waste tracking, and other initiatives we call our “Food Management Process.”
- The first step consists of source reduction and reuse strategies. Menu planning and forecasting, purchasing guidelines, proper receiving and storing, portioning, and post-analysis all fit into this category.
- We also operate educational campaigns, such as Weigh the Waste, to encourage guests to only take what they can eat.
- When there are circumstances that lead to excess food, the donation of that excess food is the next step we explore. Composting is the last step, which is preferable to sending food waste to a landfill, but participating in a food recovery program helps the environment and the local community.
Although our goal is to eliminate food waste before it is generated, there may be instances when our locations have excess safe, unserved food. Our food recovery program connects us to local Twin Cities agencies, such as Loaves & Fishes, who provide fresh food and logistical support to a number of community centers that feed those in need.
Supporting our Local Community
M Dining has partnered with the UMN Food Recovery Network since 2014 to donate leftover food items to local community organizations such as Loaves & Fishes and Urban Ventures. When excess food is unable to be used by our chefs, especially during academic break periods, M Dining managers and UMN Food Recovery Network student volunteers pick up from on-campus restaurants, dining halls, and TCF Bank Stadium (Gopher Football Games).
- Loaves & Fishes provides meals each year through public dining sites in churches and community centers and mobile produce markets in food deserts. Their mission is to provide hot nutritious meals that are prepared, delivered, and served to hungry and homeless low-income families, with a special concern for children, seniors, veterans, students, and disabled individuals.
“We serve about 3,500 meals a day across 32 locations around Minneapolis and St. Paul. So that's where the food that we get from the University of Minnesota goes to. What we are is the resource for them to essentially bring the food to and help them get it to a plate,” - Kiley Benson, Loaves & Fishes
If you are interested in learning more about how you can help M Dining in our food recovery efforts, feel free to reach out:
- Austin Johnson, M Dining/Aramark Sustainability Coordinator - firstname.lastname@example.org
- UMN Food Recovery Network (Student Group) - email@example.com
Since Fall 2014, M Dining/Aramark has donated 45,000 lbs of food to the local Minneapolis-St. Paul community -- as a result, organizations have been able to provide more than 22,400 meals.
- CLICK HERE to read more about our food recovery efforts during Spring Break 2020 in the MN Daily (Abbey Machtig, 2020)
- COVID-19 Pandemic: Following the University's reduced operations in March 2020, more than 3,800 lbs of food was donated to Loaves & Fishes to help provide meals in communities most impacted by the virus.