Eating Local a Priority for Marist's Dining Services

Helping Students Make Healthy Eating Choices an Emphasis for Sodexo

There is a distinct difference between the locally grown food served on campus and the ingredients that come from elsewhere. Even the president of Marist College noticed this, recently asking Sodexo’s general manager, Mohamad Charafeddine, about their local apples.

President Murray may have wondered why the local apples do not look like the ones that come from Washington State, or how a Washington apple can possibly look so waxed and polished. Mohamad explained that the local apples are actually better quality. “The local one tastes fresh and is juicier,” he says, while “the other one tastes phony.”

The local apples are just one example of many improvements to the quality of Sodexo’s food due to local sources. Sodexo is a very popular food service for surrounding schools, but the staff at Marist makes a notable effort to promote sustainability, as well as a healthy diet.

In addition to produce like apples, Sodexo looks locally for a number of ingredients and products. For example, this year, they started using local ingredients to make fresh marinara sauce at the pasta and pizza stations. At a neighboring station, a bread maker bakes bread right behind the deli counter.

“We bake our own baked goods here,” Mohamad says, explaining that roughly 90 percent of their pastries and desserts come from on-campus ovens. “So it doesn’t get more local than that,” he adds.

At the grill, Sodexo serves local, grass-fed hamburger meat, and hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken. They also pride themselves on their MSC certified fish. This certification required evaluation from the Marine Stewardship Council, and approval, saying that they support sustainable fishing.

“We are one of four higher education institutions in New York State certified in serving sustainable fish” says Mohamad, “and number 13 in the nation,” for sustainable fishing.

When asked about the benefits of promoting sustainability and buying from these local food sources, Mohamad explains that there are a variety of economic and health benefits. The transactions support local businesses, and their products come without additives and chemicals.

Sodexo has made a number of other changes to help students make healthy choices. The new grain bar is made from fresh ingredients and promotes different varieties of whole grains. This adds new flavors and nutritional value to the salad station.

The Mindful Meal program also creates healthy options around the dining hall. The program requires that every day, at least one station serve a dish reduced in calories or fat known as a “mindful meal.”

At the end of a meal at the dining hall, any trash and leftover food ends up on this big conveyor belt which rotates out of sight. Most students probably have no idea that once their waste disappears behind that wall, it gets composted.

Marist has actually been composting since 2007 when local farms would pick up the waste from the loading docks. Back then, Marist would eventually buy this compost back as soil for use in landscaping and grounds maintenance.

However, the cycle ended during the remodel of the dining hall, when Sodexo gained the latest technology in composting. Now, on the other side of the conveyer belt sits a silver machine, big enough to be a walk-in fridge. The leftover food and scraps go through a pipe that leads to this composter, which then efficiently processes the waste.

In addition, the other trash and materials at the dining hall are all biodegradable, so they turn to soil in only six days. “We have no waste,” Mohamad explains as a result, “and our dumpster it doesn’t smell because there is no food in it!”

Signs around campus have started promoting another way for students to contribute to sustainability efforts. They advertise that if students bring their own reusable mugs, they can get 25 cents off of hot and cold beverages. By using fewer paper cups, students can minimize waste and use fewer resources.

Sodexo encourages students to continue to make suggestions and keeps looking for ways to improve the quality and sustainability of their business. “If we hear that anybody local has a new line of granola, we go and source that,” Mohamad uses as an example.

In the future, Mohamad hopes to further increase locality and relations with the local vendors. This semester Sodexo has been able to source 48.5 percent of what they spend on food and service from within a 150-mile radius, but they still want to do more.

“I will assure you that next year we are bypassing the 50 percent from the local and regional vendors,” states Mohamad confidently, “if we can source it, we get it.”


Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18

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