Seal of agricultural authenticity.

The food choices we make everyday have a significant impact on our environment. At Dining Services, we recognize the importance of our choices and have committed to purchasing socially responsible and sustainable food. Bon Appétit Management Company has much to say on this topic in the “Sustainability” area of their website.


Carleton’s commitment to sustainability includes a composting component. Beginning in the fall of 2007, the College has composted food waste and other products made out of biodegradable material. All food waste produced by Carleton’s dining facilities is collected in yellow “compostable” bins. In addition, all disposable items at Sayles Café, including plates, cups, containers, and utensils, are compostable. During Carleton’s annual Commencement and Reunion activities, all meals are served on plates and utensils made of compostable materials.

While individual composting is common, undertaking the process on a larger scale is not. Many communities, including Northfield, compost leaves, grass, and other yard waste city-wide, but no service is yet provided for food waste except backyard composting. Carleton’s compostable waste is picked up daily by the college’s waste hauler.

The program helps Carleton in its efforts to abide by the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, originally signed by former Carleton President Robert A. Oden, Jr. The commitment pledges to move toward eliminating Carleton’s greenhouse gas emissions and steer the College toward climate neutrality. One of the items in the commitment asks participants to select from a list of seven ways to support sustainability — in this case, reducing waste on campus. It also supports the college’s own Climate Action Plan, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2011. 

Carleton Food Recovery Network

The Carleton Food Recovery Network is a chapter of the national Food Recovery Network organization. Food Recovery Network was founded in 2011 and the Carleton chapter was the first Minnesota chapter to be created.

Founded by student Shira Kaufman in 2014 in collaboration with the Center for Community and Civic Engagement and Bon Appétit, the Carleton Food Recovery Network transports uneaten food from the dining hall to community partners in the Northfield area struggling with food insecurity. During the first two years of operation, Carleton student volunteers have collected over 5,000 pounds of food and redirected it away from the college’s waste stream and into the mouths of hungry Rice County residents.

Rice County Partner Agencies

  • Whispers of Hope (Faribault)
  • Northfield Area Learning Center (Northfield)
  • A Child’s Delight (Faribault)
  • Greenvale Community School (Northfield)
  • Northfield Food Shelf

Carleton Food Recovery Network recovers food five nights per week from Burton and East Dining Halls and has 50+ student volunteers. See the photo gallery of some members of the team.

Real Food Challenge

The Real Food Challenge is a nationwide campaign to shift dining services food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local, fair, ecologically sound, and humane food sources — what is called “real food.”

The Real Food Calculator is a tool used at Carleton by a sub-committee of the Food Alliance to determine how much real food Dining Services purchases and to look into ways to shift purchasing toward real food.Thus, the Real Food Calculator sets high and consistent standard among all the institutions that use it and supports users in setting quantitative goals and in tracking their progress.

Currently, over 130 higher-education institutions are implementing the Real Food Calculator. Carleton’s percentage of purchases that qualify as Real Food averages between 25-30% annually, one of the highest scores of any institution in the country.

The 2018-19 Real Food Calculator results at Carleton are available. For more information about the Real Food Challenge at Carleton, visit the CCCE website.