University Dining Services is responsible for feeding nearly all on-campus students, as well as occasional off-campus students and other guests. UDS is spread out across campus and is not limited to cafeteria settings such as the Merle Price Commons or North Point Dining. UDS includes many small shops, including Jarvis Express, Harvey Express, Fireside Cafe, and Blue Devil Market. These locations offer snacks and beverages for busy students.
Sustainability statement- UW-Stout is committed to sustainability and its practice in our daily operations. Sustainability is the goal of meeting today's needs without compromising the needs of future generations. University Dining Service seeks to contribute to that goal by purchasing local food, recycling, composting food waste, reducing energy use, and supporting campus-wide sustainability initiatives. We will incorporate affordably priced and accessible local and renewable products and services that reflect on the campus's commitment to sustainability. We will also focus our efforts on utilizing reusable, recyclable, and biodegradable products when economically justified and available.
Practices to reduce food waste
Composting program- 99% of our non-permanent packaging and dinnerware is entirely compostable, and is available at all of our locations across campus. Another option they offer is to eat on the run and take it to-go in a compostable container for a nominal fee of 80 cents. They also incentivize using reusable dinnerware by offering 10¢ off beverage purchases when you bring in your own mug. They set the standard for campus-wide composting practices in 2010. Since January 2010, UDS has diverted 742 TONS of food waste from landfills (as of August 2016).
Sustainable food production- UDS utilizes inventory sheets for forecasting allowing for the production team to make just enough food for each week. If possible, food leftover from catering services (Typically desserts) can be packaged and resold at dining outlets. The commons dining outlet can also utilize excess hot food to be sold in the free line. The fireside cafe and commons dining outlets use dinnerware and silverware to reduce the waste of packaging material that is often over used within other dining outlets such as the blue devil market, Jarvis express and mini mart.
Fireside cafe- Fireside cafe is one of the food outlets on campus. Fireside is very sustainable due to its production of food not on a large scale but down to single service. Each item is made to order and then served on reusable dinner ware with silverware.
Monitoring and control procedures- UDS employs a number of monitoring procedures to carefully watch their waste on a regular basis. Their waste is weighed with each removal and recorded to track increases or decreases in waste production. UDS tries to reduce waste altogether by employee forecasting and inventory procedures aimed at only producing enough food to not only maximize profit but to reduce the amount of food being tossed. EcoLab products are further utilized to reduce waste because of their self decomposing packaging during use.
Green to-go reusable containers- One innovation that UDS has employed is the Green to-go container. This container is given to those who sign up for the program and know they will be consistently getting meals to go. Students then wash out the container and bring them back to a food outlet to be sanitized for the next meal. This practice reduces trash waste close to none for those who utilize the program.
How University Dining Services assists in food accessibility
University dining services has very strict policies on it regarding donations to food suppliers such as stepping stones. UDS can not supply Stepping stones with any "expired" food or anything that is extra at the end of an event due to a lack of staff and ability to supply ready to eat hot foods. UDS does however donate any prepackaged foods that have gone unsold at the end of a semester or before a break period.
UDS does assist some students through a free entree line in the commons where leftover catering food is sometimes sold. This line can often offer full entrees for the price of just using the salad bar. This can help some students financially who are penny pinching to make their baseline account last.
UDS also offers a free meal to any worker of theirs that has worked for 4 hours. Students who may be struggling to find affordable ways to eat may consider working for UDS and receiving a free meal with almost every shift; lessening the cost of food for the student.
As a resource-heavy service on campus, University Dining Services is especially conscious of its impact on the community and the world. UDS has been peer reviewed for its sustainable initiatives. UDS is working to reduce their environmental impacts through reducing waste, local and sustainable purchasing, and saving energy. You can learn more on their sustainability page.
Efforts are made to make sure food waste is reduced.
Additionally, UDS does its best to obtain ingredients from local sources. This both supports local businesses as well as reduces emissions from food transportation. In 2014, UDS purchasing was evaluated as part of a STARS assessment of the campus. It was found that 16% of UDS food purchases are local and community based.
Food purchased that was grown and processed within 250 miles or third-party certified:
- Baker's Quality Pizza Crust
- Barilla America
- Belgioioso Cheese
- Cady Creek Cheese
- Ellsworth Coop Creamery
- Fifth Season Apples
- Fifth Season Pasta
- Foremost Farms
- Gold'N Plump
- Lakeside Foods
- Nasonville Dairy
- Organic Valley
- Riverside Foods
- Saputo Cheese
- Silver Springs
- Sparboe Farms
- Burnett Dairy
- Dough Shop
- Food Service Specialties
In the spring of 2017, students from Stout Slow Foods Chapter interviewed Ann Thies, the director of UW-Stout dining services, asking her questions related to how the food system on campus aligns with some of the beliefs held by Slow Food. The goal to see how UW-Stout food services aligns with Slow Foods goals. She clearly explained the efforts and restrictions of the systems ability to perfectly align with Slow Food’s goals.
Believe that delicious nutrition is a right for everyday life
Stout has recently hired a full time registered dietitian for guide the campus and help out students.
As everyone has different food needs, Stout has made a conscious effort to provide vegan/vegetarian options at every meal.
Purchasing some local food from 5th Seasons Coop, DIning Services works to have some local food available for students year round. In the winter frozen and storage foods are relied upon more so than fresh produce in the fall and summer months.
Cultivate joyful connections to community and place
Different events are offered to celebrate holidays, campus community gatherings (hosted by the Chancellor or an outdoor cookout), and supporting students during stressful times like finals weeks.
Advocate for diversity in ecosystems and societies
The campus dining service tries to create culturally diverse foods and incorporate international students inputs.
The dining service has started to go through a
University Dining Service seeks to contribute to that goal by purchasing local food, recycling, composting food waste, reducing energy use, and supporting campus-wide sustainability initiatives.
Protect natural resources for future generations
Dining services was first on campus to advocate composting organic materials. All of the materials of packaged food that they provide to the campus are compostable and their initiative has led to campus wide compost collection.
Help people and the environment depend on each other
Because of its large production scale Dining services doesn’t have much luxury to promote this connection in ways other than supporting organic farming practices and composting organic materials.
Promote food that is local, seasonal, and sustainably grown
UW Stout Dining Services does what it can to purchase and incorporate local goods, however, it is difficult to do because of the volume of food an operation like this demands. Also they are held to a standard of inexpensive and sustainable quality this makes it difficult to rely on local and seasonal food. However, dining does purchase organic often and organic produce is part of the regular menu items dining services provides.
Build local cooperation and global collaboration while respecting all laws
University Dining is very active in its community. It is one of the largest catering businesses in its area and thus provides food for many local events.
Require no prerequisite or credential for participation
Due to being a large operation in the community, University Dining provides a large number of jobs to students and some community members. Most of the employees are students thus no professional credential is required however preference is shown to those who have experience in food preparation or service.
Fight for dignity of labor from field to fork
- University Dining due to regulation does not have the luxury to advocate for jobs other than the ones it provides. Additionally, it does not have much luxury to choose suppliers that advocate for such as well. There are not many suppliers who can provide the quantity and quality on such a regular schedule that the university needs.
GEOG 310 Group 5 University Dining Services "Special Meal" Research
Greg Restad, Logan Dais, David Wick, Tyler Hillier
Interviewed: Justin Krahn - Director of University Dining Services
Mike Kuhlman-Unit Manager of University Dining Services
Our research involved the Merle M. Price Commons food service operation. This is a separate operation than that of North Point Dining and the Memorial Student Center. This will be the focus for the research study. The following are project questions and our findings on them.
How many more students do you see versus a regular dinner period?
According to the University Dining Services manager here at UW-Stout, a normal dinner period for the Price Commons is roughly 1,300 students. This year, however, there are changes to this head count given the recent construction of North Hall. Based upon this, the average dinner period meal time for this year sees about 900 - 1,000 students. According to Mike Kuhlman, they are down about 300 students on average for meal periods. This was anticipated by dining services as the university knew what would happen if they closed one whole dorm building down. On the contrary, Mike did mention that it wasn’t like these students didn’t exist, they were just relocated onto North Campus in JTC hall. So, he mentioned that North Point Dining would see an uptick in their numbers until all campus housing buildings are fully functional again, which is slated for 2021. As far as special meals are concerned, there is slight uptick in popularity, even given the lower numbers on a regular day. Mike explained to us that they most recently saw 1,100 students for the most recent Thanksgiving meal. This is slightly higher than their normal dinner period, by approximately 10% - 20% based on a normal dinner period. North point will see similar results, as far as percentages are concerned. This can be directly attributed to the food offerings, prize potential, contests associated with the special meal. Students are made aware of these special meal nights well in advance, along with emails, flyers, posters, bulletins all spreading the word. Most of everybody going into eat on these nights knows what they are getting into. Although, Mike did mention that there would be some resistance among students, if not, a form of “protesting” if you will. When these special meal nights happen, the normal staples of the cafeteria (ie: burger bar, salad bar, pizza station, wok, etc.) will not be active. Therefore, students that aren’t interested in the night’s meal, or are maybe allergic, are forced to eat elsewhere. Keep in mind that this number of students that are disturbed by this process is in the single-digit percentile, and will be back to normal eating habits immediately the following day.
Is the cost of the meal/ingredients higher for these special meals?
The Baseline meal cost to the students remains the same whether it is a special event or a regular dinner. However, some special meals cost more to off campus students that are no longer on the Baseline system. This depends on the special meal being offered. According to Mike, the ingredients for the meals themselves cost more to the dining services than the normal dinners. The reason is because they bring in specialty items that are sourced locally and are of higher quality than the regular meals. However, according to Justin Krahn, they don’t analyze the individual costs of meals, instead they look at their daily and weekly costs and average them out so that the Commons doesn’t lose money.
What does the student feedback look like from the surveys?
The overall feedback from the special meals is positive. Dining Services aims to create a fun environment as well as provide a delicious meal to the students. They are able to achieve this by decorating the Commons with decorations that relate to the theme of the meal. There are also games for the students to play and opportunities for the students to win prizes. However, there is also some negative feedback regarding the fewer available options. Mike was not concerned about this because there are only 7 special events a year and he believes that these meals have a much greater benefit to the student body as a whole than the few complaints about fewer meal options. For the most recent special meal “Thanksgiving Feast,” the commons response to surveys produced the following: 91% of students rated it excellent to good while 8% of students rated it Fair and 1% of students rated it Poor.
Do you receive your food/ingredients from a different source for these special meals? Anything homemade?
According to the Dining Services faculty, all their food is technically homemade. They go to great lengths to prepare the food and serve, as well as prepare the salad bars and condiments. Last year, their supplier was Reinhart Foodservice in La Crosse, WI, but now their current distributor is Indianhead Foodservice Distributor in Eau Claire, WI. The food service distributors get the ingredients from local vendors within 200 miles of the area, and then they distribute to the campuses and clients they supply. Regarding the special meals, a lot of their common food and ingredients come from their usual distributors, but more of the ingredients for their special entrees are purchased. For example, they explained that for the Holiday Feast coming up, they are getting a smoked, fresh carved ham from a local vendor. Getting these higher quality ingredients add to the costs of hosting these special meals, but they are welcomed for these special events.