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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 10, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 11
Serving Up Food and a Message

At lease one 'responsible' measure is initiated each term

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

For Johns Hopkins Dining Services, the mantra has been "do the right thing."

In recent years, the Homewood campus food service has implemented a string of initiatives under the umbrella term Responsible Dining that are aimed at promoting sustainability, healthy eating and eco-friendly food options.

David Furhman, director of Dining Programs at the Homewood campus, said that the initiative — which has included measures from trayless cafeterias to the use of dolphin-free tuna — unofficially kicked off in summer 2006, when Johns Hopkins picked a new dining provider.

Furhman said that at that time Johns Hopkins was able to reinvent and re-energize dining services, which now encompass six facilities: Charles Street Market, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Fresh Food Cafe, Levering Food Court, Nolan's at Charles Commons and the Pura Vida Organic Coffeehouse. In addition to emphasizing quality, convenience and variety, Furhman said that the move to a new provider, Aramark, also offered an opportunity to reflect on "how" Dining Services does business.

Dining Services first abolished the use of plastic bags at its retail locations, which now use paper bags. It then outfitted water-saving devices on sinks and faucets in all its dining facilities, and installed energy-saving devices in its vending machines.

Furhman, who joined Johns Hopkins in 2004, said that the goal has been to implement at least one "responsible" measure each school term.

Recently, the Fresh Food Cafe and Nolan's went trayless in order to reduce food waste and to conserve the water and electricity that would have been used to wash the trays.

Furhman said that by not using trays, Dining Services will be able to save 66,000 gallons of water per year and also reduce food waste by an estimated 75,000 pounds.

"We know from experience that when folks have trays, they tend to pile stuff on and make their eating choices at the table, not the counter," he said. "It can be terribly wasteful."

One common thread in the Responsible Dining program has been the focus on freshness. The kitchen staff now cook with herbs grown in a seasonal herb garden, planted in front of the Fresh Food Cafe. And Dining Services buys its milk, bread and produce from local vendors, such as cantaloupes from Chestertown, Md., and milk from a dairy in Pennsylvania.

By buying locally, Dining Services is able to reduce its carbon footprint by reducing the amount of fuel needed to transport food to campus.

"We want to provide fresher products for the students and the community," Furhman said. "If we can shorten the trip from the source, the fresher the food is and the higher the quality we can provide."

In terms of healthy eating, the Fresh Food Cafe is now a trans fat-free facility, and all milk that Dining Services uses and sells is free of antibiotics and artificial growth hormones. And in partnership with the JHU Student Health and Wellness Center, Dining Services has implemented the Hopkins Healthy Option Program to provide its customers with nutritional information to help identify healthier food choices at every meal.

Other measures include the use of cage-free eggs, reusable bags, biodegradable and recyclable to-go containers and dinnerware, dolphin-safe tuna and seafood purchased following the recommendations of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program.

"We have a much more responsible dining program now, and we're more sustainable than we've ever been," Furhman said. "It's all about setting a good example. Quality is always our No. 1 priority, but after that it's about what is the right thing to do. We ask ourselves, Where can we have a more positive impact on our campus, our community and the world?"

What's next? Dining Services has recently partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future to establish a "food footprint" program. The program, which will premiere right after Thanksgiving at the Fresh Food Cafe, will educate customers through posters and a labeling system on the amount of fuel and other resources used in the production of each food item.

"Beef, for example, has a large food footprint," Furhman said. "Cattle require a lot of fuel and food to raise. Poultry has less of a footprint and vegetables, less still. We're not telling customers what to eat, but we want them to see how their decisions impact the world around them. In a large way, that is what our efforts are all about. Our goal is to provide our customers with information so they can make intelligent choices."

For more information on all the Homewood dining facilities and for current hours of operation, go to


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