Bon Appetit Management Co. manages the food service at Colorado College, but it's not just some bulk-food supplier for cafeterias. It sees itself as an on-site restaurant company sourcing locally, following socially responsible practices, and reducing food waste. And its chefs have the freedom to create menus of healthy, made-from-scratch offerings.
Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Bon Appetit operates more than 650 cafes in 33 states, mostly at higher education institutions like CC or corporate cafeterias. Dishes created at each location have to have at least 20 percent of the ingredients come from farmers and producers within a 150-mile radius of that cafe.
In conjunction with Bon Appetit, CC students established a garden on a patch of land behind the college president's home. Food harvested from the garden is used in the campus kitchens, including the main dining hall, Rastall Café in the Worner Campus Center, and a small cafe and retail location, The Preserve.
In 2007, Bon Appetit was the first food service company to connect food's role to climate change. The company targeted specific areas it believed would have the most impact in helping shrink its carbon footprint: serving more plant-based protein and less meat, and working to decrease their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions caused by food transportation, food waste and deforestation.
Claire Cummings, the company's "waste specialist," has spearheaded initiatives like the Imperfectly Delicious produce program and food recovery partnerships. The Colorado Springs Food Rescue (CSFR) program is an example of such a recovery program created by CC students. CSFR volunteers collect edible food from restaurants and grocery stores to distribute to food kitchens around town. Much of that food would fall under the "imperfectly delicious" category. It refers to foods that are of perfect quality but are slightly smaller in size or have an odd shape.
It's astonishing how much of the less-attractive food gets tossed. All told, an estimated 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted, according to Jonathan Bloom, author of "American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food" and founder of WastedFood.com.
"And that wasting happens at all steps of the food chain from farm to fork," he writes in his book. While we don't know exactly how much is wasted at each step along the way, "We have pretty good estimates that farms and households represent the biggest amount of wasted food in America and hence also represent the biggest opportunities for change."
Bon Appetit deserves kudos for its efforts to encourage eating in a way that is less wasteful and more sustainable to the environment. If you want to see what they're doing, check out the menus at any of the CC restaurants. They're open to the public when classes are in session, and the prices are very reasonable.