At UVA, a greener way to eat lunch

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It’s all well and good if you buy your half-pound of green beans at City Market instead of Kroger, but the big institutions in town have to get on board if our community as a whole is going to reduce its food-related footprint. I’m happy to report that UVA is taking steps to do just that. Kendall Singleton called me this morning to talk about her new gig: Sustainability Coordinator at UVA Dining.

"So, it’s a brand-new position?" I asked.

"Yes."

"How long have you been on the job?"

"Um, since Monday."

That makes it sound like she’s just getting her feet wet, but Singleton helped to found UVA’s Green Dining student group when she was an undergrad, so she’s actually been working on these issues for several years. She graduated in ’07, did an eight-month internship in the fields at Sperryville’s Waterpenny Farm, and will now tackle the challenge of greening the thousands of meals served daily by UVA Dining.

First on her agenda: promoting an initiative that allows students to sign out reusable to-go containers, which they bring back to be washed instead of chucking them in the garbage. "We expect to have a lot of highly motivated individuals jumping onto this concept at first, but we’re obviously hoping to reach a wide range of students," she says—hence the need to educate the UVA masses about the project.

Singleton also wants to get UVA serving more locally-sourced food. Her time at Waterpenny, she says,"gave me a healthy dose of reality…[Farmers] aren’t necessarily sitting by their phone waiting for me to call them up and propose they start selling [to UVA]." Rather, she faces a process of getting sales set up through middlemen like Cavalier Produce (from which UVA Dining already buys some local food) and Sysco.

Right now, Singleton says, about 15 percent of the food UVA serves meets at least one of these five criteria: local, organic, fair trade, seasonal, humanely raised. She’d like to move that needle toward 20 percent.

Ideas for her quest?

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