Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

Earth Day falls on April 22, 2019 . To celebrate, Burton Dining Hall is planning an Earth Day themed lunch from 11:00-2:00 p.m. on that day..

“We have done some other events for Earth Day and featured some of our other local sustainable partners on Earth Day,” said Shaun Dearden of Dining Services. “We looked at a lot of our local and sustainable food vendors that we operate with.”

“We decided to feature some local seafood that we are getting out of Chesapeake Bay,” continued Dearden. “We are looking to actually have some vendors that we are purchasing the seafood from come up here and explain the different catches and why we are offering lesser known species of fish.”

The reason they are offering fish that are not mainstream is to reduce overfishing. “We are putting a lot of species out there that are not recognizable but it is to prevent overfishing of the more popular fish,” said Dearden.

“We also partner with Seven Hills Food […] which is a beef producing company. We buy all of our ground beef from them,” said Dearden. “This provides local jobs and the cattle is from the area, from the county surrounding Lynchburg, so the carbon footprint is greatly reduced.”

“We have been partner with Homestead Creamery […] so our milk and a lot of the ice cream products that we do have been from ethically sourced products,” said Dearden. “They are happy cows there. They are actually [in the] pasture and they get to roam around, and that is not an industrial dairy farm.”

Dearden said, “We also buy pork products from a local pork farm in Virginia. So again, we are looking after the Virginia economy the best we can, but also getting a clean label recipe breakfast in sausages that are made to our specifications.”

“Chef Michial [Neal] has been here for 30 years and I have been here for 27 years,” said Dearden. “We have watched the evolution of sustainability and different products. We have been emphasizing clean label and local and sustainable when we can.”

“None of this happens without the support of the students because we are here to support and serve the students,” finished Dearden. “We might spend a little bit more to buy local and sustainable products, but they are better products.”

Chef Michial Neal talked about the menu for Earth Day. “We will have a quinoa salad on the salad bar. [We are] going to do a vegetarian pho on the Café Verde. We will be doing kale, broccoli, and greens for sure. Mixed rice, mixed greens. We will be doing a local [bratwurst] from Baker’s Farm. We are going to have Seven Hills Beef Company do six ounce burgers for us so we will have fresh burgers. We are going to have a fresh fish demonstration along with a cook off. We will have a flatbread pizza and dirt worm cups for dessert.”

Recently, the Dining Hall has been awarded with a Green Restaurant Certification. “We are the first private university in Virginia to have achieved a level one certification,” said Dearden.

“We have removed all styrofoam out of the operation. We got rid of plastic straws and replaced them with paper straws and wooden stirrers,” said Chef Neal. “The majority of the lighting in the building from this level is LED. All the water faucets have water reduction nozzles.”

According to Dearden and Chef Neal, the last bit of styrofoam used in On Common Ground will be phased out by next school year.

Chef Neal continued, “All the equipment that we purchase, we always try to purchase energy star equipment that saves electricity. The dish machine uses less water and energy to get hot water. We use green chemicals in the dish machine that are biodegradable. The [dishes] are dried by heat and by a blower.”

The Dining Hall also donates their food waste to different composts. “The composting, we have been doing pre-consumer waste where we cut vegetables up into little pieces and parts,” said Chef Neal. “We will have the vendor here on Earth Day from Royal Oak Farms. He will be taking all of our post-consumer waste, the waste that goes into the dish room. Basically, 100% of all our food waste is going to be going into compost.”

About the Earth Day lunch, Dearden said, “We are going to have many of our partners come set up displays and have information available. Chef Michial and Terry Hudson, one of our cook leads, have worked on a menu that features a lot of these products. We will have t-shirts and prizes.”

“We are looking to have a really fun, exciting day,” said Dearden.