Diane Narum

Production manager, Luther's dining services

Campus Sustainability Council member: "Our group meets twice monthly," says Diane. "Most recently, our focus has been on finding ways we can purchase and use more local foods."

Local-food favorites: Diane believes that buying local foods makes it easier to offer more made-from-scratch cooking. She shares, "Some student favorites include meatloaf, baked ham, scalloped and mashed potatoes, squash bakes, and bacon cheeseburgers."

On-the-job training: Diane feels that her position has made it easy to learn how to contribute to sustainability on a personal level. She says, "I grow a lot of my own food, recycle, and drive a vehicle that gets good gas mileage."

"Currently, nine percent of our cafeteria's food is purchased locally," Diane says. "Our goal is to get that number to 35 percent by 2012."

The Campus Sustainability Council recently invited local producers to a meeting to discuss Luther's needs in terms of local foods. Diane states, "We had no idea how many producers would attend when we sent the invitation. We were very pleased with the results--we had an excellent turnout, and the producers showed a lot of interest."

The committee requested bids from producers for many items they currently get from nonlocal suppliers. Some of these items include assorted vegetables, fruits, meats, and eggs.

"We learn a lot from our local producers during our exchanges and often we come up with solutions that benefit all of us," says Diane. "For instance, we learned that our baby carrot supplier and an egg producer were composting their goods that weren't uniform in size because they didn't think they would sell well in stores. When I mentioned that we could cut up the carrots for our cooking needs and use eggs of all sizes for baking, they realized there was a market for them. The discussion resulted in a solution that worked out well for all of us."

Another way dining services contributes to sustainability is by eliminating or reducing waste. For instance, the cafeteria no longer offers trays to carry food. "Eliminating the trays helps reduce food waste and conserve large amounts of water and detergent. It's estimated that by not washing 3,000 trays each day that washing time is reduced by two hours," says Diane. "Although the idea met with some resistance at first, the transition with the students has gone smoothly."

In addition to eliminating the trays, dining services also composts much of their food waste, converts their waste fryer oil into biodiesel fuel for campus lawn and maintenance vehicles, and recycles items like aluminum and plastic.