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BU dining services tries eco-friendly menu options

Vegetarians and environmentally conscious students can make a difference once meal at a time with Boston University Dining Services’ implementation of “Make a Difference Mondays.”

Dining Services and Sargent Choice teamed up “to promote eating foods with a low carbon footprint that are better for both us and our environment,” said Sabrina Harper, the sustainability coordinator for Dining Services.

In order to expand students dietary habits, Dining Services will begin offering more environmentally sustainable options once a month for the remainder of the semester beginning this week.

Dining Services aims to educate students about sustainability, including the “importance of local and organic food, sustainable seafood and at the same time promoting healthy options,” Harper said.

“Executive Chef Walter Dunphy has developed a special menu to feature local produce and new, exciting recipes at each Make A Difference Monday,” said Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences senior  Elizabeth Jarrard, the social media manger for Sargent Choice.

Red meat and pork will not be served at breakfast, lunch or dinner on MADM, Jarrard said. Instead, sustainable fish, poultry and vegetarian protein will be offered in the dining halls.

Jarrard said planning MADM has been a collaborative effort since the fall semester between Harper, the food service director and a registered dietician at the Nutrition and Fitness Center, in response to feedback from the BU Vegetarian Society.

Harper said that instead of going completely vegetarian, MADM is “a compromise to that initiative, by still offering some meats, but focusing on foods that have a lower carbon footprint such as poultry, local fruits and vegetables and sustainable seafood.”

“We wanted to inform students about how their food choices impact the environment and how it is relatively easy to give up beef and pork once a month,” Jarrard said.

“Meatless Monday,” where participants cut meat from their diets every Monday, are gaining steam across the country, Jarrard said.

Other campuses, such as Howard University, Syracuse University and some of the University of California schools have committed to going without meat once a week.

Ultimately, Harper said she hopes that MADM will empower students “to make educated decisions about food, while still offering a wide variety of options.”

“What you choose to eat can have a huge impact on the environment, and for people who feel like they can’t make a difference this is a way to show [students] that their decisions have a big impact,” said Allison Mars, a “semi-vegetarian” and SAR sophomore, who is volunteering in the dining halls to promote MADM.

“People know that recycling [and] composting … can help the environment, but people never realize that food can make a difference as well,” Mars said. “Everyone eats, usually several times a day, so there are millions of opportunities to help.”

“MADM will teach students that they don’t have to commit to being a full vegetarian or vegan to reap the health benefits of reducing [their] red meat consumption,” Jarrard said.

It is also important that students are aware of the local and sustainable foods that are offered on a regular basis in BU’s dining halls, such as fair trade and organic coffee, local, hormone-free milk, organic yogurt and sustainable seafood, Harper said.

Local apples, sprouts, dairy products, potatoes, organic peanut butter, beans and tofu are all sustainable choices also found in the dining halls, Jarrard said.

Harper said MADM will better communicate “the great choices that we offer in the dining halls.”

“MADM is a great way to increase people’s awareness of how much effort and energy it takes to make the food we eat,” said Silpa Sadhujan, a senior in the College of Fine Arts who is volunteering in the dining halls to promote MADM.

It is important that students realize that you don’t have to be vegetarian to make an impact, Sadhujan added.

“If everyone ate everything in moderation, we could make a huge environmental impact. It’s easy to forget about all the time and energy that is put into making the great food we eat.”

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