Dining services offer ample opportunities to integrate sustainability as they consume a significant portion of resources and generate large volumes of waste material. A large expenditure of time, money, and energy routinely go into the growing, harvesting, and preparing of food for the campus community. A campus food model must consider aspects greenhouse gas emission, preservation of natural resources, and generation of waste to fully address issues of sustainability. The transportation of food, packaging, storage, preparation, and waste disposal, while considering how best to meet the nutritional needs of the entire campus community all have to be taken into account when preparing food for a campus. The objective at UTPA is to educate and minimize the environmental and social impacts of food services operations while continuously providing a variety of nutritious and sustainable-grown foods.
Dining Services also has a crucial educational role in teaching students that food choices matter for health, environment, and society. The American public is familiar with the benefits of Organic Farming (avoiding artificial pesticides and fertilizers). They are less familiar with the benefits of Locally-grown (avoiding environmental costs of transportation), Humanely-grown (avoiding the diseases, pharmaceuticals, and ethical challenges associated with confined animal factories), or Fair-trade (avoiding the oppression or deprivation of farmers and people who work on farms or in food processing factories). Dining services has the opportunity to educate students, staff, and faculty who use their services on healthy eating, and offering choices to consumers so they can make healthy and responsible decisions regarding food.
The agriculture traditions of the Rio Grande Valley provide an excellent opportunity for the campus to support local growers. Purchasing from local growers reduces travel costs and pollution, reducing environmental damage from carbon dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants associated with the delivery process. Local growers will also reduce packaging waste as they do not have to endure long bouts in transportation or storage.
Reducing food waste is an important aspect of the Dining Service efforts in attaining sustainability. Reusing food by placing the scraps in compost heaps can be useful for mulch for campus gardens and landscaping or animal feed; donating unused but edible food to local food banks helps out in sustainability by promoting social justice for the poor and needy. Finally, eating a healthy amount is important; this promotes a healthy lifestyle and awareness. Trayless dining has been instituted in the cafeteria as a way to raise awareness of eating a healthy amount of food.
Healthy eating habits endorsed at UTPA
UTPA held a ribbon cutting to officially open Sandella's Flatbread Cafe and Jazzman's Cafe and Bakery