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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Cuarto dining hall showcases new sustainability program

First-year students may be apprehensive about adapting to a new college lifestyle, but they can look forward to a wholesome meal in the newly sustainable Cuarto Dining Commons.

The dining hall has just reopened for fall after extensive renovations in both food service operations and design. With it, University Dining Commons launched a sustainable food system that practices seven core goals including waste reduction and elimination, environmental stewardship and locally grown and produced foods.

“We hope to educate our customers to be more educated consumers,” said Danielle Lee, sustainability manager at University Dining Commons. “Our society has become very disconnected from food and where it comes from.”

“We have a unique opportunity to facilitate that reconnection,” added operations director Kevin Peiper.

Any visitor dining in the new facility will have a myriad of options to choose from. Five distinguished stations highlight a different theme and cater to each consumer’s needs.

A stop at the Fresh Inspirations salad bar offers over ten options for salad garnishing, along with the option of fresh-roasted meat. Also, atop each label of dressing, customers will find the name of the farm the dressing came from, the ingredients and nutritional facts.

Cuarto’s new food system caters to vegetarians and vegans who will most likely find themselves at Tomato Street Grill, which holds options such as vegan grilled portabella burgers, vegan coleslaw and vegetarian macaroni salad.

Dessert-lovers hoping to finish their meal with a sweet confection can also look forward to a scoopful of all-natural, locally produced ice cream, instead of soft serve which contains stabilizers. A slice of pumpkin pie, mini fruit tarts and vegan peanut butter cookies are also occasionally offered at the Harvest Bakery station.

“We want to introduce people to think about the food system and think about sustainable agriculture,” said Molly Bernstein, a sustainability intern at the Cuarto Dining Commons. “We are working with more environmentally sound ideals in order to compromise and make changes in our environment.”

Cuarto Dining Commons experienced renovations not only in food and food service but it has also been architecturally converted into a more sustainable, eco-friendly environment. In addition to the contemporary thematic platforms on the first floor, the second floor features a more open dining space.

Kirei Board, a highly sustainable resource that reduces emissions and meets air quality standards, can be found on surfaces of the cabinets, drawers and counters.

Solar thermal panels have also been added to the roof for pre-heating water supplied to the dishwasher, which creates renewable energy.

The new project’s lighting reduction and control integration also reduce the need for artificial light during the times of peak energy demand. The additional skylights and larger windows will not only reduce energy needed from artificial lighting, but also increase the overall energy efficiency of the building.

University Dining Services hope to align their sustainability initiatives with the university’s goals, said Colin Bettis, director of Cuarto.

University Dining Services partnered with the R4 Recycling program to implement waste reduction and recycling services on campus.

They have also partnered with ASUCD, the National Organic Program and the Food Alliance Program in hopes of utilizing more socially and environmentally responsible agricultural practices, according to a University Dining Services sustainability program report.

Alma Rodriguez, a first-year psychology major, said that eating and socializing in the dining commons is an enjoyable experience.

“I think the new sustainability practices are awesome,” she said. “The DC is very nice and comfortable, and there is interesting and delicious food.”

NOURA KHOURY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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