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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 67.88
Liaison Mary Easterling
Submission Date Sept. 14, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Pennsylvania State University
OP-8: Sustainable Dining

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.88 / 2.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a published sustainable dining policy?:
No

A brief description of the sustainable dining policy:

Penn State does not currently have a published sustainable dining policy.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor source food from a campus garden or farm?:
Yes

A brief description of the program to source food from a campus garden or farm:

In 2016 Penn State's Nittany Lion Inn, Campus Dining Halls, Penn Stater Hotel, and The Village at Penn State all sourced some of their fresh produce from the newly established Student Farm. Most of the dairy products served or sold on campus come from the Penn State Berkey Creamery, which gets the majority of its milk from Penn State cows. The Penn State Mushroom Lab provides mushrooms for some campus eateries.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host a farmers market, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery program, and/or urban agriculture project, or support such a program in the local community?:
Yes

A brief description of the farmers market, CSA or urban agriculture project:

The newly established Penn State Student Farm operated a CSA program in summer and fall of 2016.

Penn State also hosts a Community Garden on campus, open to students, faculty, staff and community members. The garden is run by the Community Garden student club.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a vegan dining program that makes diverse, complete-protein vegan options available to every member of the campus community at every meal?:
Yes

A brief description of the vegan dining program:

Penn State dining services offers both meatless and vegan options for every meal at all dining commons on campus. Over 50% of the vegan entree recipes meet the "healthy" parameter (600 calories or less per serving, maximum 10% of calories from saturated fats, 0 g trans fat, 600 mg or less of sodium). An advisory board meets once a semester to ensure that the offerings of meatless and vegan options are meeting the expectations of the vegetarians on campus.

Every day we aim to have at least one vegan soup, one vegan entrée, and at least one vegan side on the menu. We have an extensive salad bar with a variety of vegan items, such as tofu, choice of bean, grain salad, choice of roasted vegetable; a fruit selection is also available. Additionally, we offer daily the following: veggie burgers, 3 flavors of soy milk, 2 flavors of almond milk, rice milk and vegan yogurt. We promoted the Whole Grains Council for a special event.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host low impact dining events (e.g. Meatless Mondays)?:
No

A brief description of the low impact dining events:
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Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host sustainability-themed meals (e.g. local harvest dinners)?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability-themed meals:

The Student Farm Club and Housing & Food Services have partnered to host sustainability-themed meals with "Dinner and a Movie" in one of the dining commons each semester since the Farm's establishment in 2016. Typically the events feature a local foods dinner - including several menu items produced by the Student Farm - followed by a movie screening and panel discussion. Films have included "Just Eat It" in Spring 2016, "A Place at the Table" in Fall 2016, and "Dirt" in Spring 2017. The Student Farm Club has also sponsored special events such as a fall harvest festival featuring fresh samples of food and remarks by President Eric Barron, and a Summer Solstice Celebration in summer 2017, featuring music and locally-sourced food.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor host a sustainability-themed food outlet on-site, either independently or in partnership with a contractor or retailer?:
No

A brief description of the sustainability-themed food outlet:
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Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor inform customers about low impact food choices and sustainability practices through labeling and signage in dining halls?:
Yes

A brief description of the sustainability labeling and signage in dining halls:

The Office of the Corporate Executive Chef as well as the Registered Dietitian’s office work together to label all items with an entrée card. If the item meets the criteria to be vegan, it has a “V” designation in the left hand corner of the entrée card. If it qualifies as meatless, it will have an “M” in the left hand corner.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor engage in outreach efforts to support learning and research about sustainable food systems?:
Yes

A brief description of the outreach efforts to support learning and research about sustainable food systems:

The interdisciplinary Sustainable Food Systems Program aims to make the Penn State University Park campus and food system a living laboratory for engagement in sustainable agriculture and food systems by strategically linking classroom education with experiential education, research and community outreach.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have other sustainability-related initiatives (e.g. health and wellness initiatives, making culturally diverse options available)?:
Yes

A brief description of the other sustainability-related dining initiatives:

RHEAL stands for Residential Healthy Eating and Living, a program designed to point out healthy options in the dining halls. Menus and entree curds are marked with a carrot icon to indicate items that meet the RHEAL criteria. http://foodservices.psu.edu/rheal
Starting Fall 2017, all chicken thighs served in the dining commons will be Halal certified. On August 24th, a Kosher dining program will be opening in one of the dining commons, under Star K rabbinic supervision.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor participate in a competition or commitment program and/or use a food waste prevention system to track and improve its food management practices?:
Yes

A brief description of the food recovery competition or commitment program or food waste prevention system:

Penn State Food Services' Culinary Support Division continually evaluates the quantity of trim waste and spoilage. They then conduct training programs for our professional culinary staff and for our student employees with regard to reducing trim waste. To decrease the spoilage quantities, all of our employees (100%) must pass a certified food safety class. The increased knowledge from these classes with respect to proper storage and handling techniques reduces our spoilage factor tremendously. Waste audits are taken and shared each semester to further educate employees and customers on waste awareness.


Has the institution or its primary dining services contractor implemented trayless dining (in which trays are removed from or not available in dining halls) and/or modified menus/portions to reduce post-consumer food waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the trayless dining or modified menu/portion program:

Penn State Food Services has reduced the size of the plates used in the dining halls, which encourages smaller portion size and less food waste. More recipes have converted to 'buffet style' portion sizes to reduce post consumer waste.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor donate food that would otherwise go to waste to feed people?:
Yes

A brief description of the food donation program:

Any perishable food items are donated to Meals on Wheels prior to long semester breaks (winter and summer). The individual dining commons managers contacts Meals on Wheels to organize the pick-up. The amount of food each dining commons is able to donate varies depending on the time of year and semester.

A student club, Waste Not, primarily concerns itself with acquiring perishable, leftover food from dining halls on University Park campus and delivering it to care homes, hospices, and halfway houses in the State College area.

The Student Farm at Penn State donates surplus produce to Meals on Wheels throughout the growing season.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor divert food materials from the landfill, incinerator or sewer for animal feed or industrial uses (e.g. converting cooking oil to fuel, on-site anaerobic digestion)?:
No

A brief description of the food materials diversion program:

Equipment has been purchased for a pilot-scale biodiesel plant that would process used vegetable oil into biodiesel that would power up to 20% of the university fleet. However, currently, the project is on hold. http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/energy/biofuels/resources/psu-biodiesel-plant


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a pre-consumer composting program?:
Yes

A brief description of the pre-consumer composting program:

Pre-consumer food waste is captured from the six on-campus dining commons, several outlets on campus such as the HUB and Bryce Jordan Center, as well as the hospitality centers (Nittany Lion Inn and Penn Stater) and catering service (Campus Catering). The hospitality employees source separate pre and post consumer food. Food service employees also source separate pre-consumer food.

Food waste is delivered to Penn State’s Organic Materials Processing and Education Center (OMPEC) where it is combined with other organic waste (primarily leaves and landscaping debris) to produce compost, which fulfills campus landscaping and research needs. The OMPEC program was originally developed in 1997 as a collaboration between the College of Agricultural Sciences, Housing and Food Services, Hospitality Services and the Office of Physical Plant. The project has parallel goals of responding to the needs of handling organic residuals generated from within the university and enhancing teaching, research and extension/outreach programs of a land-grant university.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor have a post-consumer composting program?:
Yes

A brief description of the post-consumer composting program:

Post-consumer organic waste is captured in virtually all buildings on campus, including dining, residential, classroom and office buildings. Compost bins, lined with a "green" compostable bag, are provided as part of an array of seven containers where consumers sort their waste into compostables, various types of recyclables, and trash. Compostables are delivered to the University's OMPEC facility, described above.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor utilize reusable service ware for “dine in” meals?:
Yes

A brief description of the reusable service ware program:

All dining units default to china and silverware as the first position of service.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor provide reusable and/or third party certified compostable containers and service ware for “to-go” meals (in conjunction with an on-site composting program)?:
Yes

A brief description of the compostable containers and service ware:

Students may obtain, for a $5 deposit, an eco-friendly, reusable Green2Go Box, which can be used at any of the five Dining Commons on campus. The box is used for to-go meals, and then either rinsed and reused by the student, or rinsed and exchanged for a carabineer that can later be exchanged for another Green2Go Box. The success of the program has been mixed, however, and compostable containers are currently under consideration.


Does the institution or its primary dining services contractor offer discounts or other incentives to customers who use reusable containers (e.g. mugs) instead of disposable or compostable containers in “to-go” food service operations?:
Yes

A brief description of the reusable container discount or incentives program:

All retail dining facilities have reusable coffee mugs and water bottles available for purchase. When individuals bring these reusable beverage containers back, they receive a discount on their purchase. At many of the locations, a person can bring their own mug and receive the same discount.


Has the institution or its primary dining services contractor implemented other materials management initiatives to minimize waste not covered above (e.g. working with vendors and other entities to reduce waste from food packaging)?:
Yes

A brief description of other dining services materials management initiatives:

A "Green Meetings Guide", produced by Penn State, offers staff guidelines for providing a zero waste meal. Campus catering offers this service, which has encouraged some off-campus caterers to follow suit.

Ongoing efforts by Food Services to reduce waste include:
- Portion size reductions on all serving lines.
- Smaller serving utensils.
- Mixed office paper recycling in all kitchens.
- Recycling/compost training annually for all employees.
- Unit chefs in all kitchens.

The Student Farm at Penn State delivers produce in reusable totes, which each of the campus dining units returns for reuse. In 2016 this program reduced the used of waxed boxes by 250 boxes. See http://studentfarm.psu.edu


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.