With the recent opening of The Engrained Café, students at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe now have a sustainable dining option.
Developed as part of ARAMARK's Green Thread environmental stewardship program, the Café features locally grown and harvested food prepared to order, including organic produce, Fair Trade coffee, cage-free eggs and chicken, free-range beef and sustainable seafood.
The seasonal menu will include beach mushroom and brie ravioli with fresh basil, grilled calamari, pea tendrils and purslane with Queen Creek kalamata vinaigrette, natural beef bolognaise, cucumber and watermelon salad with Rainbow Valley farmers' cheese and feta with fresh mint vinaigrette and a signature Engrained date pecan bar made from campus-harvested dates.
ARAMARK's Green Thread program is their commitment to providing environmental stewardship across daily operations and services. The program embodies six key pillars or intentions: sustainable food, responsible procurement, waste stream management, green buildings, energy and water conservation and transportation. This holistic approach includes local sourcing (Farm-to-Table), sustainable dining practices, renewable energy sources, green building commissioning, organic composting and recycling programs.
"The menu ties in with one of our six intentions for the restaurant, which is Range 150, and that looks at our sustainable foods," said Katrina Shum, sustainability manager on campus with ARAMARK, the campus foodservice provider. "We try to source as much as we can from within a 150-mile radius. That is really looking at partnerships with local growers and producers in the area."
With many of the ingredients provided by local suppliers, the menu changes on a weekly basis, depending on what items are available.
"Our executive chef has been great about seeing what's seasonal, what's available and how to incorporate that into our menu offerings," she said. "So an example of something that we do is our Campus Harvest Program, and that is looking at what we call edible landscaping - what's grown on campus, such as dates and, this season, Seville oranges. How can we use what is already grown on campus in our dining facilities for vinaigrettes, marmalades, lemonade, what have you?"
Shum said finding local ingredients has sometimes been difficult. "It is a challenge being in Arizona, with its climate. We try and work with what we can. That has been one of our big challenges. We do have some interesting things like Desert Sweet Shrimp, which comes out of Gila Bend. They fly the larvae in from Hawaii, they harvest them out in the middle of the desert and then they use that water to harvest their fields, so it is a closed-loop system."
Aside from the sustainable food offerings, education of the customers is an important part of the café. "We work on developing and educational thread in terms of sustainability that runs throughout the restaurant," said Krystal Nelson, marketing manager. "There are different touch points, whether it is the table numbers or signs or brochures to educate students, faculty and the outside community on what sustainability is."
The educational material is a combination of Internet research hand information provided by vendors and third parties like the Monterrey Seafood Watch. "We provide that for customers," she said. "We have 130 sustainability information facts for all the table numbers. We have window clings that have information on LEED Certification and Fair Trade."
Sustainability was also key in the building of the café itself. "In terms of the actual buildout, it was a pretty exciting project to work with," said Nelson. "We have Energy Star equipment. We have low-energy lighting, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and bamboo wall finishings, which are natural renewable resources."
Many of the restaurant's furnishings are made from local resources, such as walls made from Arizona sandstone and bamboo, and chairs made from recycled seat belts and wood for sustainably managed forests. The hearth oven, from Wood Stone, is covered with recycled glass tiles.
Students have really taken to the café. "There has been very good reaction to it all," said Shum. "I know that one of the student sustainability groups asked me to come out there and speak with them to go over our six intentions and go over what we are doing in those areas. It is definitely well received, especially by student sustainability groups. It is very interesting because it is not just students; there are a lot of faculty members, too."
The students also like the fact that the café is fast casual. "This is a first on this campus where students have their meals served to them," said Nelson. "They definitely love that. The wait time isn't bad. It's not any worse than any restaurant they would go to off campus, so it is quick enough for them to come enjoy. The fact is that there are servers and bussers there, but they still have time to eat between classes."
She also sees that students really are learning about sustainability "I have noticed just watching students in the restaurant, reading the fun facts that we have in there and not realizing how much water is wasted or other sustainability facts that are in there. It is great just seeing them reading it and talking to their friends about it."
The "6 Intentions" of the Engrained Café:
Radius 150: use food resources within a radius of 150 miles of campus; partner with local farms and suppliers;
Buy Smart: engage in positive, ethical buying of products and services, aimed at enriching local communities;
Daily Commute: reduce fuel use and emissions across transportation practices; improve efficiencies with suppliers, vehicle manufacturers and other organizations;
Wall-to-Wall: provide a healthy environment for patrons and staff; protect finite natural resources;
Around the Community: support causes in the local community and around the world;
Waste Not Want Not: promote and practice reuse and recycling in operations to sustain natural resources and reduce waste.
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We're committed to protecting and improving the environment by weaving an essential Green Thread through every aspect of our business.
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