Dining Services throws in its 2 cents to fight hunger


Monday marks the launch of Dining Services’ Coffee for a Cause, an initiative that aims to raise money through the purchase of coffee at three local colleges and universities to buy six tons of food for organizations that feed the needy in the Capital Region.

For each cup of coffee purchased at retail dining locations on campus, Dining Services will donate 2 cents to the Schenectady City Mission and the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. The initiative does not apply to dining halls or any free cups of coffee acquired through the use of a buy-nine-get-the-10th-free punch card, but Dining Services will be donating 2 cents when customers purchase coffee using a reusable mug.

The Coffee for a Cause initiative, spearheaded by Union, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and University at Albany, will run from Oct. 5 through March 4, 2016. The three schools have a fundraising goal of $2,000 total, “with each school contributing based on sales from last year,” according to Victoria Devitt, Area Marketing Coordinator for Sodexo Campus Services.

Devitt estimates that Union will contribute approximately 770 pounds of food to its chosen organizations through Dining Services’ 2-cent donations, based on the fact that the Union community purchased 19,624 cups of coffee between October and March of last year.

If sales numbers remain the same this year, Union’s monetary donations to the Schenectady City Mission and the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York through the Coffee for a Cause initiative will total $392.48.

This year, Devitt stated, Dining Services hopes to surpass last year’s donations to the Schenectady City Mission, which she said totaled approximately 2,000 pounds of food.

To offset waste production through the use of disposable coffee cups at Union’s retail dining locations, the “coffee cups are compostable and the lids are recyclable,” said Devitt.

Meghan Haley-Quigley, Union’s Sustainability Coordinator, noted that many dining locations on campus compost throughout the food production process and offer composting bins to members of the community who want to dispose of their food waste sustainably. This means that coffee grounds generated in most dining locations are composted, and customers have the option of composting their coffee cups and recycling their lids after purchasing a cup of joe.

Exceptions, Haley-Quigley said, are the Wold Starbucks, which does not compost, and the College Park Hall Kiosk, which composts in its kitchen but does not offer composting for customers. In short, this means that the College Park Hall Kiosk composts its coffee grounds, but that the Wold Starbucks does not.

As for the recyclable plastic iced coffee cups, Haley-Quigley believes them to be a better solution for Union’s coffee needs than compostable plastic cups because composting bins are only available in limited locations, but there are “hundreds of recycling bins, if not more, across campus” that are readily accessible to Union students, faculty and staff on the go.

Haley-Quigley applauded Union Dining for its efforts, saying, “Dining Services has made incredible strides toward sustainability in the last few years.”

Dining Services also gives a discount to students, faculty and staff who use reusable mugs to purchase coffee and soda at retail dining locations on campus. According to David Gaul, Dining Services General Manager, and Greg Nalewjka, Dining Services Director of Retail Operations, reusable mugs and bottles are given a discounted price amounting to the cost of a small coffee or soda, depending on the beverage purchased.

In other Union coffee news, Dining Services celebrated National Coffee Day by offering the college community a free small coffee with the purchase of a baked good or breakfast item from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29.


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