At the University of California, Davis, an elite group of students is engaging and encouraging the campus population of more than 32,000 to become responsible food consumers. From implementing a farm-to-table model for campus-grown produce to organizing informational events on sustainable food options, the Sodexo Sustainable Food Interns at UC Davis dedicate their time outside the classroom to promote sustainability in campus dining and support the Sodexo plan for A Better Tomorrow.
More than 22 percent of food purchases for campus dining halls at the University of California, Davis are from local, organic or sustainable sources.
Students, faculty and community members at UC Davis have been at the forefront of the organic and sustainable agriculture movements as the curricular focus on agriculture has long influenced the campus community’s eating choices.
UC Davis Dining Services is committed to actively engaging in policies and practices that foster a sustainable food system serving 5,000 students in three dining facilities. A large part of our client’s commitment to a sustainable food system is the sustainable food intern program under Sodexo Dining Services.
“Sustainable food is not just about food, but it is a way to show that we, as a culture and as a university, care. Davis has such an opportunity to show other universities how it is done,” said Jasmine Nazari, student of International Agriculture Development and one of this year’s Sodexo sustainable food interns.
Introduced in 2006 as a quarter-long program targeting students in the Department of Nutrition, the sustainable food internship has roots stemming from a campus book project on The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan at the start of the 2006-2007 academic year. The book project sparked dialogue among students, staff, faculty and dining entities on the state of the campus food system, and the movement grew into the Dining Services sustainability program, now known as Healthy Planet, Healthy Me!
“Back in 2006, some of our students didn’t know the benefits of locally grown produce and had no idea what ‘sustainable’ seafood meant,” said Danielle Lee,Sustainability Manager at UC Davis Dining Services, and one of the first sustainable food interns on campus. “We saw the need to engage with incoming students on these issues and help them become socially and environmentally conscious consumers,” she added. And what better way to do just that than by enlisting their own students to help educate the campus community?
Interns are Sodexo employees who work within the university’s Department of Sustainability and Nutrition to host educational activities, conduct research and outreach activities and provide general support for the sustainability program. The internship is designed to cultivate future leaders in sustainability. The interns have a unique role in that they are Sodexo representatives and Sodexo customers at the same time. For this reason, the Sustainable Food Interns both inform and execute our sustainability commitments to A Better Tomorrow.
Many interns go on to pursue careers in sustainable food and agriculture. Kase Wheatley, a sophomore, aspires to become a farmer. “I want to create and maintain a connection between the food I grow and the food I eat, and I want to share this connection with people throughout my community,” he explained.
Over the past 5 years, the program has become increasingly competitive. In 2010, 50 applicants competed for 4 openings. Future plans for the structure of the program involve creating specializations within the internship, where each intern will focus on one of the seven core practices of the Healthy Planet, Healthy Me! intiative.
Currently, two interns are working to expand the field-to-table sustainable food model for produce grown in the UC Davis Student Farm. For the past two years, the farm’s produce has been sold to one of the retail dining facilities on campus, but this year will mark the field-to-table model’s first foray into student dining commons. Interns will work with campus growers to complete weekly garden safety audits (a Sodexo requirement) and host tours of the student farm for peers, faculty and staff.
“For me, the student farm is one of the cornerstones of my education at UC Davis, and I would love to share the experience with more people,” said Wheatley, who is one of the interns working on the project.
Facilitating interaction between the chefs and student growers, the interns will organize farm visits and develop and execute plans for growing crops requested by the chefs. The program was launched at the start of the year in January 2011.
Combined efforts from sustainability managers at UC Davis Dining Services and the Sodexo sustainable food interns continually help expand the sustainable food system, incorporate sustainable foods into the 1.8 million meals served on campus each year, and attain A Better Tomorrow.
For more information on the UC Davis sustainable food internship and what sustainability projects are in the pipeline for UC Davis Dining Services, contact Danielle Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org