Students, officials discuss green food options

Joanna Williams

About a dozen people came to a forum on Wednesday afternoon to share goals and plans for greener dining options on campus.

The idea of the forum was to allow students to voice concerns about their food, said Matt Vaughan, a senior from Mexico, Mo., who is the co-founder of WKU’s Americans for an Informed Democracy.

“We started a discussion last fall and it seems like a growing interest from students about green food,” Vaughan said.

He said fair trade has been the number one issue the members of AID have immersed themselves in this year.

“The past two years we’ve been struggling to find ourselves,” he said. “We were searching for something tangible and with a lasting impact. And now…we have found fair trade.”

Meredith Tooley from dining services said WKU has done a lot of things to shift toward being a greener food campus. She said 23 percent of purchases in Java City have been fair trade, amounting to 1,400 pounds of fair trade coffee.

“That is a big percentage that hasn’t always been on campus,” she said.

Participants at the forum said they wanted more vegetarian options and locally grown food options on campus. They also expressed concern about styrofoam usage, plastic water bottles and energy consumption.

Tim Colley, district manager for ARAMARK, said he was open to hearing the concerns of the students, but a lot of things are out of his control when it comes to having greener options.

“We are restricted on what we can and cannot change,” he said. “We are not given free reign.”

He said there are purchasing guidelines the company must follow, and locally grown food options are more expensive than what they have now.

“We are working with a customer-driven basis,” he said. “If they want chicken tenders and pizza, I’m going to give them chicken tenders and pizza.”

“It’s a long process,” he said. “We are engaged and we want to be, but I have to walk both sides.”

Tooley said from an administrative stand point, they could only do so much and they need student support.

“We want to be able to do these things, but it is your all’s part to educate your peers,” she said.

Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan-Downing said she hopes the Downing University Center renovations would provide for an opportunity to launch more innovative and greener dining options.

Vaughan mentioned a new program that ARAMARK and WKU will begin in the spring which allows students to purchase reusable containers to cut down on the use of styrofoam.

Ryan-Downing said that although she expected more people at the forum, she thought the discussion was great and was happy to see ARAMARK representatives come and hear what the students had to say.

“I think the turnout was good,” she said. “As the sustainability coordinator, food is the number one issue. I thought it would be a higher turnout, since I hear about is so often.”

Ryan-Downing said forums are a good start, but educating students who are not aware of greener food options should be the ultimate goal.

“I think that education is where we come in,” she said. “We need to be talking to each other about what we want. It’s not just a WKU problem, but a society problem.”