Plant-Based Takes Over Sodexo Campus Dining

Karla DumasBy: Karla Dumas, Director of Food Service Innovation at the Humane Society of the United States

I cherish the time I spent working in the food service industry when I was at a large K-12 school district in Florida. Now I lead the food service innovation work at the Humane Society of the United States.

One of the reasons why I love working with people from my former industry is that you are in a unique position to take actions to dramatically reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically accomplishing this goal by shifting your dining operations to more sustainable food, while still using your immense talents to make the offerings as delicious—or even more delicious—than ever before. 

Compared to plant-based foods, animal-based foods require substantially more water and land to produce and emit tons more greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere. In fact, Sodexo’s internal analysis has shown that “at least 70% of the U.S. supply carbon footprint was related to animal-based food purchases in fiscal year 2020.”

Sodexo’s analysis is spot on. Methane, which comes from animal digestion and waste, is 25 times more potent toward climate change than even carbon dioxide. In terms of inefficiencies which lead to wasted energy use, it takes nine calories of feed to get just one calorie from chicken meat. We can do better.

Clearly, any sustainability plan that’s meant to create real change will center on shifting from a meat-heavy menu to one that’s focused on plant-based entrées. Sodexo recognizes this and that’s why the company committed to shifting to more plant-based proteins as a key pillar to reduce carbon emissions by 34% as part of their Better Tomorrow 2025 roadmap.

Humane Society of the United States logoThe Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Sodexo have been partnering for close to fifteen years on plant-based initiatives, specifically through culinary training and recipe support. In fact, this partnership is why Sodexo Campus has the impressive goal of reaching 42% of their menu offerings being plant-based by 2025.

Much of this shift relies on recipe innovation and the savviness of the Sodexo teams on the ground. Together, we recently launched a new plant-based training and dining hall takeover available to all Sodexo Campus programs throughout the country. Since November 2021, we have been able to train over 50 programs through a virtual training platform, with the goal of training all universities within the next year. At the end of the training all participants host a plant-based takeover event where students and staff can try a variety of mouthwatering plant-based meals and provide feedback on what they would like to see offered in the future. What the foodservice teams are implementing is nothing short of works of art. Here is a sampling of what students are experiencing throughout these takeover events:

Carrot Osso Bucco with Creamy Polenta

Carrot Osso Bucco with Creamy Polenta

Tofu Bahn Mi

Tofu Bahn Mi

Falafel Bowl

Falafel Bowl

Chesapeake Cakes with Carolina Slaw

Chesapeake Cakes with Carolina Slaw

 

After those images, you wouldn’t be surprised hearing quotes like:

The food was hands down the best I’ve ever had on a college campus.

I think it’s really cool that the dining services is doing this. I’m glad to see more vegan options than just the Vegan Station and I’m excited to try it out.

I never eat vegan food, but I really enjoyed the lobster style salad taco, and I would continue to eat it if it tasted like this.

The HSUS applauds Sodexo for this ambitious target and for showing the world what the future of foodservice can look like.

To learn more the plant-based initiatives, including the training programs with the HSUS, please check out the sustainable eating page and the Forward Food collaborative.