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Food & Living Initiatives

Sustainable Food Program 

R&DE’s dining halls function as living laboratories, and have collaborated closely with Stanford faculty to conduct research and develop teaching programs. Food system research, education, and a system-based approach helps to influence the 200 million meals Stanford University’s current students will consume over their lifetime to more sustainable choices.

Education & Research

To change food behavior, it’s vital to raise awareness about sustainability. R&DE seeks to support the academic mission of the university, and through that, supports academic classes through project-based learning, guest lectures, and co-teaching two courses, Earth Systems 119: Will Work For Food, Designing Your Impact in the Food Systems and Human Biology 14: Food and the Environment. Education efforts include the Know Your Food program, which features discussions, book talks, and cooking classes with food experts across the food system. R&DE Stanford Dining offers hands-on cooking classes focused on sustainability and nutrition in the Teaching Kitchen @ Stanford.

Sustainable Food Purchasing

R&DE Stanford Dining has developed a set of purchasing guidelines and preferences called the Sustainable Food Ethos to establish a practical framework and an ongoing process to guide food purchasing decisions. These guidelines consider the best interest of our environment, the social and economic systems on which our food depends, and the health of those to whom we serve food. R&DE seeks a thoughtful food purchasing policy that prioritizes food that is healthy, fair, humane, and sustainable. An example of this is the direct-purchasing model with Taku River Reds, a family-owned salmon fishery in Juneau, Alaska. Stanford Dining commits to purchasing approximately 25,000 pounds of salmon from them annually and pays early, allowing them to plan their business in an economically-viable manner.

Local Farm Partners

R&DE Stanford Dining purchased approximately 67,000 pounds of organic produce directly from a local farm, Pie Ranch, in 2016. This direct institutional CSA model relationship has been in existence for four years and was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle. For the past four years, R&DE Stanford Dining has had a direct relationship with Coke Farm, a local, organic farm and farm hub that sources from about 50 small and medium-sized local farms. R&DE buys over 50,000 pounds of organic produce from them each year. R&DE also created the Farm Accelerator program where they purchase directly from Oya Organics and Magana Organic Farm via Coke Farm, guaranteeing a certain minimum purchase for three years to help farms grow. R&DE also buys produce from the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm annually for a farm-to-campus program.

R&DE co-founded and jointly leads the Bay Area Sustainable Sourcing Group in collaboration with Google Food to bring together regional, large food buyers and food system experts from universities and the dining departments at tech companies. The group elevates thought leadership on sustainability and leverages their purchasing power to improve the regional food system.

Waste Reduction

R&DE Stanford Dining reduces waste, composts, donates food, and recycles whenever possible with a goal of zero waste in the dining halls and cafes. As part of R&DE Stanford Dining’s “Love Food Hate Waste” program, all dining halls have a food waste monitoring system. Stanford Dining is committed to reducing food waste throughout all parts of the food system. An example of this is through the “Deliciously Imperfect” program. R&DE has been working with 50 small and medium sized, local, organic farms to source “ugly produce” that is deemed too large, small, misshapen, miscolored, scarred, and unsellable that would otherwise be left in the fields or be discarded. Instead, the produce is given to local, small, and medium sized organic farms as an additional source of income.

R&DE also regularly donates food to local non-profits and families in need. In 2019, R&DE established a new partnership with Silicon Valley Food Rescue to reduce community hunger by distributing surplus food at dining halls across campus to people in need. The program, known as A La Carte, features a refrigerated van that comes to campus five days a week. The food is delivery directly to individuals and families in nearby neighborhoods, including elementary schools and churches. The van is designed to look like a food truck to maintain a dignified experience for people who are receiving free food.

Organic Teaching Gardens

R&DE Stanford Dining has 12 organic teaching gardens. This past year, R&DE partnered with Ng House on a one-credit gardening course. Stanford Dining also has a greenhouse in Arrillaga Family Dining Commons that grows microgreens and hydroponic towers in Florence Moore Dining.  The R&DE Stanford Dining organic teaching gardens offer multiple work days each week, in addition to workshops that teach students how to grow their own produce. Further, the Seed Library and Seed-of-the-Month Club run by R&DE Stanford Dining gives students and the Stanford community free seeds each month that they can plant at home or in the gardens by their residences. 

Sustainable Living Program

The Sustainable Living Program is committed to influencing generations of students to lead sustainable lifestyles, not only on campus but also in their future communities. R&DE Student Housing does this by providing infrastructure that encourages sustainable living. 

The R&DE Sustainable Living Program collaborates with students and staff to foster behavior change, reduce energy and water consumption, and reduce waste production in campus residences. 


Water Conservation

R&DE Student Housing led an irrigation retrofit project in 2015 that included replacing all irrigation equipment – over 20,000 pieces across its 57 acres of landscape – with more efficient models. This retrofit this is expected to save 33 million gallons of water per year, a 46% reduction in R&DE’s irrigation water use. R&DE continually strives to advance conservation efforts, and tested the lowest-flow showerhead on the market, making Stanford the first university to do so. 

Waste Reduction

R&DE Student Housing is expanding its zero waste program across all areas of R&DE. In 2017, all residences were outfitted with multi-stream collection bins and over the next two years all R&DE facilities will be outfitted for zero-waste.

Green Cleaning

After a successful 2015 pilot in the Delta Delta Delta sorority house, R&DE plans to expand its green cleaning system to all houses, including the new Escondido Village Graduate Residences. The Tersano cleaning system uses an ozone-infused water solution that is just as powerful as traditional cleaners, without any chemicals. In addition to reduced packaging, the ozone solution is much safer for custodian and occupant health and reduces the impact of chemicals on the environment.  

Sustainable Move Out

The annual Give & Go program aims to reduce waste sent to landfill as students move out at the end of the academic year and partners with regional organizations to donate gently used items to communities in need. This year, the program diverted over 64 tons of materials from the landfill.