Our Initiatives

Sustainability is a longstanding core value here at UVM Dining. It is woven into everything we do, from purchasing local and sustainable foods, providing a variety of plant-forward options, reducing food packaging and waste, to giving back to our community. We know that our students and community care about where their food comes from and how it is prepared. Our chefs work hard to source local ingredients and offer recipes that are both good for your health and socially and environmentally responsible.

We are committed to decreasing packaging and food waste on campus as much as possible while ensuring the health and safety of those we serve. We use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Waste Management Hierarchy to guide our waste reduction initiatives on campus.

Learn more about our commitments and initiative by exploring the topics below.

Sustainability - Food

UVM Dining has a long history of partnering with local farmers, producers, and distributors to help build and maintain a strong local and regional food system. Local food not only tastes great; it helps support the local economy, the working lands of Vermont and reduces the number of miles that food travels before it gets to our plate.

We partner with Black River Produce and the Intervale Food Hub, who provide local, regional, and sustainable produce, dairy, meat, and specialty foods to campus. We are also proud to support UVM's agricultural programs, including Catamount Farm, UVM Dairy Bar, and Proctor Maple Research Center. 

UVM Dining is a proud member and recognized Gold Barn Honoree of the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN). To qualify as a Gold Barn honoree, we must achieve impressive localvore standards, including sourcing ingredients from 15-individual farm partners (10 of who are VFN farms). Additionally, 35% or over $350,000 of food purchases must be made from Vermont producers or locally grown/raised food products. We purchase products from about 40-VFN member farms through our local food distributors. We are also a key sponsor and participant in the Vermont Fresh Network Annual Forum. Check out our VFN profile.

Vermont Farm to Plate is the statewide initiative legislatively directed to increase economic development and jobs in Vermont’s farm and food sector and improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters. A ten-year plan to strengthen the working landscape, build the resilience of farms and food enterprises, improve environmental quality, and increase healthy, local food access for all Vermonters is being implemented by over 350 farm and food sector organizations from across the state.

UVM Dining commits to supporting the production and purchase of local food across Vermont in order to accomplish Farm to Plate goals: to increase the amount of Vermont food products consumed by Vermonters, local food production, and the amount of locally produced food available in Vermont institutions.

UVM released its Comprehensive Sustainability Plan in Spring 2023, which charts a path to campus climate neutrality by 2030 and outlines specific goals in decarbonization, governance and people, campus operations, and research and learning. 

The food and dining goals as part of this plan are:

  1. Increase spending on Vermont-grown food to 25% by 2030 from the 2020 baseline.
  2. Prioritize food purchasing from diverse suppliers where possible (i.e., minority/women-owned).
  3. Support access to healthy, local food for the campus community. 
We are also working on decreasing food and packaging waste in partnership with the Office of Sustainability.

Catamount Educational Farm -UVM Dining has had a partnership with UVM’s Catamount Educational Farm since its inception in 2014. During the fall, we purchase organic vegetables and apples from the farm, which are grown and harvested by the student farmers in the Farmer Training Program. We meet with Catamount Farm staff each year to develop a crop plan based on our expected needs for the following seasons. Our continued support helps grow this academic program and strengthens our local food system.

Proctor Maple Research Center - In the fall of 2015, UVM Dining began exclusively purchasing maple syrup from UVM's Proctor Maple Research Center, located in Underhill, Vermont. Chefs order weekly to ensure UVM students and staff always have a consistent stock of Vermont's most famous product.

UVM Ice Cream - Through a partnership with UVM C.R.E.A.M. (a student-run dairy herd), Wilcox Dairy, Black River Produce, Kingdom Creamery, and Agrimark, we proudly serve ice cream on campus made with milk from UVM's own dairy cows! You can find UVM Ice Cream at the UVM Dairy Bar in the Davis Center, Redstone Dining, Harris Millis Dining, and several on-campus retail locations.

In 2014, UVM Dining and Sodexo launched Vermont First, a first-of-its-kind program committing Sodexo to track local food spending and increase local purchasing across its Vermont institutional markets. Since its inception, the aim of Vermont First has been to grow market opportunities for local producers, stimulate job growth, and ensure the viability of Vermont's working lands. We do this through strategic purchasing shifts, collaboration with stakeholders, and increasing consumer awareness. 

We track our local food spending each year to provide transparency about our purchasing and develop strategies to increase locally grown and/or manufactured products. Our definition of "local" is in line with the Vermont Farm to Plate definition, grown or processed in Vermont.

UVM By The Numbers
Our Featured Commitments:
Harvest of the Month: Through Harvest of the Month, we encourage our customers to eat with the season and support regional resiliency. We commit to using a seasonal local product each month and work with the Intervale Food Hub and Black River Produce to create standing orders to deliver to campus each week. Working with our vendors months in advance helps support growers and suppliers with crop planning and budget forecasting. Harvest of the Month not only supports local economies but also helps our students eat locally and seasonally year-round. 
Local Ground Beef Program: In collaboration with Black River Meats, we commit to using local ground beef each month. This partnership, which started in 2018, has helped us increase purchasing of local beef and creates a reliable market for Vermont dairy farmers who historically transported cattle to sell to out-of-state markets where prices are unpredictable. Additionally, Black River requires all participating farms to follow humane animal and sustainable crop management practices.
  • Did you know? Over 75% of the ground beef served on campus is local?
New England Food Vision Prize: The New England Food Prize was launched through the Henry P. Kendall Foundation in 2018. This annual prize is a $1 million commitment (projects can receive $20,000 - $200,000), aimed at building resiliency and capacity within New England's academic institutional food supply chain, resulting in increased preparation, serving and consumption of local and regional food. UVM Dining is proud to have partnered on three winning projects since its inception.  
2019 Prize: In 2019, The University of Vermont and Norwich University were awarded $200,000 to help support infrastructure development of the production facilities for two local/regional producers (Just Cut in Hardwick, Vermont, and Pioneer Valley Growers Association in Whately, Massachusetts). By supporting these processors, we can commit to purchasing more locally and regionally grown vegetables from small-scale farmers. Additionally, by incorporating these products across our campuses and medical centers, we ensure reliable demand for minimally prepared local and regional produce year-round, which ultimately benefits our farmers, our students, and our communities.
  • Learn more about Just Cut in this video
2022 Prize: In 2022, UVM Dining partnered on two winning projects. Visit to learn more about the projects.
Prize #1: Building Processing Capacity to Maximize Equitable Local Sourcing
  • Vital Communities, in collaboration with Global Village Foods, The University of Vermont, and the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, was awarded $199,929 to develop a regional farm ingredient sourcing supply channel that supports the significant growth that Global Village Foods is anticipating for their allergy-friendly, culturally-relevant, ready-to-eat stews and samosas into institutional food service channels and beyond.
Prize #2: Good for the Gut: Bringing Local Organic Pre-Cooked Black Beans to The University of Vermont Dining and Medical Center
  • The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), in partnership with Vermont Bean Crafters, The University of Vermont, and Sodexo, was awarded $168,034 to increase institutional purchasing of Vermont-grown, pre-cooked, frozen, organic beans. Prize funding will go towards greater storage and processing capacity and other market developments, allowing Vermont Bean Crafters to aggregate, dry, and store beans from various Vermont producers wishing to enter the institutional market.
Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership (NOFFP): In the spring of 2022, we proudly signed onto the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership (NOFFP). This campaign was developed in response to Horizon Organic ending contracts with 135 organic farms in New England and New York, 28 of those being in Vermont. Signing onto this pledge displays our commitment to support the local, organic dairy farmers that were impacted by this change. We have committed to increase our purchasing of Butterworks Farm and Larson Farm yogurt and are currently looking at additional local, organic milk products to bring to campus.

As individuals become more aware of the impacts that their food choices have on the environment, many decide to shift their dietary patterns to eating more vegetarian and vegan options. Promoting plant-based eating is a critical strategy in addressing climate change, as plant-based ingredients have lower greenhouse gas emissions and are a healthy and delicious option. 

We pride ourselves on the variety of vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based dining options that we offer, including offering several exclusive vegetarian/plant-based stations on campus. Most on-campus locations use vegetarian/vegan/plant-based logos on menus and signage to help consumers identify foods that meet their preferences. Plus, we continually develop new plant-based recipes and train our culinary team, to help ensure that our offerings are not only nutritionally balanced, but they also taste great. 

  • Vegetarian (V) = no meat products
  • Vegan (VG) = no meat or animal by-products, including white sugar and honey
  • Plant-based (leaf logo) = no meat or animal by-products, but can include white sugar and honey

We are proud to serve 100% cage-free eggs on-campus since 2014. We do not use any powdered eggs on-campus. In the fall of 2023, we committed to purchasing all of our "shell" eggs from Maple Meadow, a local farm in Salisbury, Vermont.

We are committed to serving sustainable seafood, purchased at fair market value and sourced from providers that ensure the highest level of quality assurance and food safety along with adherence to global standards of excellence for environmental responsibility and accountability in seafood. Our seafood ordering guide prohibits purchasing items that do not meet our high sustainability standards. Credible Eco certifications for seafood were decided upon in partnership with the World Wildlife (WWF) and in accordance to the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), including Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM), Best Aquaculture Certification (BAP), and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).

Red's Best, from Boston, MA, is one of our primary seafood providers. They are committed to complete transparency in the seafood supply chain, providing a livable income for fisherpeople and creating markets for abundant, underutilized seafood species.

100% of the coffee served on campus in UVM Dining locations is sourced from locally owned companies. We currently feature Speeder and Earl's (Burlington, Vermont) and Vermont Artisan Coffee and Tea Co. (Waterbury, Vermont) in our retail locations and Mountain Grove Coffee (White River Jct., Vermont) in our dining halls. Whenever possible, we source Fair Trade coffee and tea to ensure that farmers and roasters are paid a fair price for their products.

UVM Dining was proud to participate in the Real Food Challenge from 2012-2020. This national student-led initiative aimed to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets from conventional food to "real food" by 2020. We were the 5th university in the nation to commit to the campaign and the first land grant university to surpass the national commitment. We met our 20% Real Food goal in 2017, and recommitted to 25% by 2020, which we also met! We are awaiting further direction from the national Real Food Challenge team on the future of the program beyond 2020. 

UVM Dining worked closely with the Real Food Working Group to review our invoices and categorize our food spending using the Real Food Challenge Guidelines. "Real Food," as defined by the Real Food Challenge, fits into at least one of the following four categories:

1. Local and Community-Based: These foods can be traced to small farms or businesses that are locally owned and operated (within 250 miles of campus for most products, 500 miles for meat products). Sourcing these foods supports the local economy by keeping money in the community and builds community relations.

2. Fair: Individuals involved in food production, distribution, preparation - and other parts of the food system - work in safe and fair conditions; receive a living wage; are ensured the right to organize and the right to a grievance process, and have equal opportunity for employment.

3. Ecologically Sound: Farms, businesses, and other operations involved with food production practice environmental stewardship that conserves biodiversity and preserves natural resources, including energy, wildlife, water, air, and soil. 

4. Humane: Animals can express natural behavior in a low-stress environment and are raised with no hormones or unnecessary medication.

UVM Real Food Challenge Campus Commitment makes the news! 

Sustainability - Waste

EcoWare, our reusable takeout container program, helps minimize the use of single-use containers and increases the flexibility of meal plans by allowing meals to-go from our dining halls. UVM Dining is committed to reducing packaging waste and has had an EcoWare program since 2011. 

All first-year and transfer students will receive one complimentary EcoWare membership (cow tag) to participate in the program. Cow tags can be picked up at the EcoWare tabling events in the dining halls for the first few weeks of each semester or anytime at a UVM Dining cash register. If you lose your EcoWare cow tag or container, you will need to buy back into the program for $7.50, payable with Retail Points, Cat$cratch, or credit/debit at the register. 

EcoWare containers are leak-resistant, BPA-free, dishwasher/microwave/freezer safe, and can be used up to 300 times. They are made from 20-30% recyclable materials.

How To Use in the Traditional Dining Halls (PDF)

Please note that using our EcoWare program is the only way to take food out of the traditional dining halls. The use of personal Tupperware containers is not allowed. Per the Vermont Department of Health, reusable containers must be washed and sanitized by Dining Services to ensure food safety. 

  1. Inform your cashier you would like to get an EcoWare meal to-go before you swipe into the traditional dining halls.
  2. Give your EcoWare cow tag to the cashier and ask for an EcoWare container (a flat box or soup container). If you'd like to also dine-in, please inform the cashier, and they will have you swipe for that meal too.
  3. Fill your EcoWare with food from the dining hall (we just ask that it closes).
  4. Leave the dining hall and enjoy your meal.
  5. Empty (and if possible, rinse) and return your dirty EcoWare container to any EcoWare return bin located in most dining locations. You will receive a new cow tag (or container if you are ready for another meal to-go). 
  6. Repeat to continue to participate in the program.

How To Use in the Retail Locations (PDF)

Opt for your meal to be served in EcoWare (available at The Marketplace, the University Marche, and Given Bistro). It's good for the environment and your wallet (save 25 cents each use)! Please note: EcoWare is not currently available on Everyday, our mobile food ordering app.

  1. Give your EcoWare cow tag to the cook/server and ask for your meal to be served in EcoWare. Unfortunately, this option is not available on our mobile app.
  2. Save 25 cents at the register.
  3. Enjoy your meal.
  4. Return your dirty container to an EcoWare return bin located in most dining locations, and you will receive a new cow tag. 
  5. Repeat to continue to participate in the program.
In the News:
To reduce the amount of single-use packaging on-campus, we offer the following options:
  • We encourage the use of reusable coffee mugs (up to 24 ounces) at our UVM Dining retail locations. Choose to ReUse and save 25 cents off the price of a large coffee.
  • Save 25 cents when you use EcoWare at one of our retail locations (where available).
  • Save 5 cents when you bring a spork (reusable spoon/fork). Need a spork? They are sold at select UVM Dining retail locations.
  • Choose reusable plates and silverware instead of disposable options.
  • Be sure to bring your reusable water bottles and refill them at the dedicated water stations across campus!

Did you know? In 2013, in response to a student campaign, UVM banned the sale of plain, unflavored bottled water on campus, making it one of the first public universities to make this shift. UVM provides safe, clean drinking water, so providing bottled water from another community is unnecessary.

We do our best to limit excessive packaging in our operations and are proud to only offer straws "upon request." When we do use packaging, we use recyclables products that are in line with the preferences of Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD). We never use Styrofoam on-campus. 

With the help of UVM Zero Waste and Recycling, we have been recycling since before it was cool. All dining locations use single-stream recycling to divert cardboard, paper, metal, glass, and plastic from the landfill. Learn more about UVM's composting and recycling program.

Effective January 1, 2022, CSWD will no longer accept compostable foodware and packaging (cups, utensils, plates, straws, etc.) in their compost stream; they will continue to accept food scraps and napkins. CSWD has found that compostable packaging poses issues to their operations and degrades the quality of their compost and other soil products. UVM Dining will convert existing compostable packaging recyclable alternatives wherever possible, and encourage the use of reusables such as EcoWare, refillable mugs, and sporks to minimize the impact of this change.

Our culinary team utilizes the Leanpath program, which uses scales and tablets to help track food waste generated in our kitchens before it goes into the compost bin. While some food waste is unavoidable (for instance, the rinds of melons), much of it is due to overproduction or spoilage and can be minimized. When possible, ingredients can be properly stored to be served at another time or can be repurposed into different dishes rather than going into the compost. 

We piloted this program in 2013 and have continued to expand to all UVM Dining locations. The implementation and expansion of this program has allowed us to reduce food waste from our kitchens by 50%!

Trayless dining is an operational strategy to reduce food waste. Not having a tray limits the amount of food customers can carry at one time, which can significantly reduce food waste. In our all-you-care-to-eat facilities, we encourage students to take what they need and come back for seconds if needed. Trayless dining also decreases the amount of water and energy used for washing trays.

Diverting food scraps from the landfill into the compost stream helps build healthy soil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, UVM Dining has been composting since 1997! When you are on campus, you will sort your waste. All food scraps (including meat and bones), napkins, and bamboo stirrers should be placed in the compost. All of our compost goes to the Green Mountain Compost facility at Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD).

Effective January 1, 2022, CSWD will no longer accept compostable foodware and packaging (cups, utensils, plates, straws, etc.) in their compost stream; they will continue to accept food scraps and napkins. CSWD has found that compostable packaging poses issues to their operations and degrades the quality of their compost and other soil products. UVM Dining is working with UVM Recycling and Zero Waste and the Office of Sustainability to redesign the waste sorting areas on campus and to educate our community about this change. UVM Dining will convert existing compostable packaging to recyclable alternatives wherever possible and encourage the use of reusables such as EcoWare, refillable mugs, and sporks.

Since 2007, we have been teaming up annually with Eco-Reps to quantify the amount of post-consumer compost generated in our dining halls. The initiative takes place in one dining hall, for four days, during peak dinner times. At the end of each night, the waste is weighed and divided by the number of patrons who entered the dining hall during the designated collection time to estimate ounces of waste per person. 

In addition, Eco-Reps help educate students about the impact of food waste on the environment, look for trends to help interpret the data, and make recommendations to decrease waste. As a result of this program, some dining locations serve grill items with buns on the side after observing that many students only wanted the chicken breast or burger and just composted the bun.

Our dining facilities produce approximately 150-200 gallons of used cooking oil each month. Since 2000, we have been diverting our used oil to be repurposed into biofuel. It currently goes to Black Bear Biofuel, located in Plainfield, Vermont, where it is turned into a renewable fuel source rather than going into the compost or waste stream.

We are committed to sending surplus food to people, not landfills. We partner with the on-campus Food Recovery Network club to divert excess edible food to Feeding Chittenden and UVM's on-campus food pantry, Rally Cat's Cupboard. We donate about 15,000 pounds of food that would otherwise go to the compost each year. Additionally, we also host food drives in our retail locations at the end of the spring semester for students to donate food items to Rally Cat's Cupboard.

We are also proud to donate 1% of proceeds from Zime Given Bistro (up to $3,000) each year to a local food pantry and have been able to provide $1,000 gift to UVM's food pantries since 2018.

UVM Dining launched Swipe out Hunger in 2018 in response to research done on-campus regarding the prevalence of food insecurity among our students. Each semester, a portion of unused Guest Meals and Meal Swipes from on-campus meal plans help fund this program for students in need. For more information or to enroll in the program visit Food Insecurity at UVM located on the Center for Health and Wellbeing at UVM's website.