Nov 10, 2011 • By

Foodservice industry talks sustainable food

As director of industry relations for General Mills Foodservice, one of my favorite things is meeting with our Champions Council twice a year. The council is made up of nine foodservice leaders from industry segments including K-12, college and university, lodging, corporate dining and health care.

We recently met at Reed College and the University of Portland in Portland, Ore., one of the most progressive cities in the U.S. for living green, the perfect setting for us to discuss environmental and socially responsible food.

Portland is a model city for sustainable living, which is truly inspiring. Within the foodservice industry, sustainability is of increasing importance. There is growing interest in locally sourced food, trimming food waste and integrating energy savings initiatives into daily operations.

To kick off our two-day immersion into sustainability, Scott Exo, executive director for Food Alliance, discussed third party certification for sustainably managed food production. We had a great discussion with our customers on their best practices and ways they were communicating these initiatives to their customers.

We then headed to Zenger Farm, an urban farm in Portland that models, promotes, and educates the community about sustainable food systems and environmental stewardship. After a tour, we enjoyed a “Farm to Fork” dinner on the farm. Yum!!!

The next day, we had a great discussion on food trends in the foodservice industry and invited a local chef, Vitali Paley, to share food trends from the Pacific Northwest. His restaurant, Paley’s Place, is a Portland favorite known for serving and supporting local foods. We learned from Chef Vitali that eating local is not a trend in Portland, but a 40 year way of life in the community.

We then heard from a panel of six students from the University of Portland about their eating habits and realized that they, too, were passionate about the foods they ate. Fortunately, going to school in Portland means great local foods with healthy options, including vegan entrees and even a specific station with gluten-free foods. They all agreed they were a little spoiled.

We also had an opportunity to see the great job the University of Portland is doing in minimizing food waste. We toured their facility and saw how they are handling waste from the dining facility. Each student has the opportunity to recycle everything, including a bin for composting food scraps.

Here’s a video clip of our Champions Council member and district manager for Bon Appetit, Sam Currie, sharing more about the university’s food waste initiatives.

After two days of sharing and learning, we all left inspired by the sustainable food community and culture of Portland. We can all do our part to make the foodservice industry adopt and build sustainable business practices into our operations.

Editor’s note: This is the final post in a series about food waste. The first post, “The impact of food waste,” was published Nov. 8. The second post, “How Second Harvest helps rescue food,” was published Nov. 9. You can learn more about our sustainability efforts on