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Food Sustainability

The University makes a conscious effort to address food waste and manage the resources required to feed the campus.  Highlights of campus food sustainability include:

Housing and Food Services is committed to sourcing food from local, fair and humane vendors. The department believes in supporting the local community and knowing exactly what goes into each meal. 

Students at the MIO Showcase 2017
MIO Showcase 2017

Housing and Food Services, along with the student organization OUr Earth, joined together to bring the Leafy Green Machine to campus in the fall of 2016. Housed in an upcycled shipping container, it is the first hydroponic farm at a Big 12 university. Produce grown is served in on-campus dining locations.

The container operates in farm mode from 2:00 pm until 8:00 am. Red and blue LED lights simulate sunshine and the average temperature of the farm is in the 60’s. The farm consists of 256 vertical growing towers. Coated seeds are planted in a peat moss growing medium. 

The farm requires zero herbicides or pesticides and operates on only 10 gallons of water and 120 kwH of electricity per day.

Outside of OU Freight Farn
Freight Farm Growing Material
Freight Farm Plantlings
Freight Farm Plantlings Under Colored LEDs
Anaerobic Food Digester at Couch Cafeteria

The Power Knot Food Digester at Couch Cafeteria is an aerobic bio-digester that mixes food waste with Powerzymes (microorganisms).  The digester is a closed system with an auger in the middle which rotates the materials. Inside of the system are rubber pellets that contain and distribute the enzymes.  The food waste is decomposed and converts solid food waste materials into grey water.  The system has a computer component which automatically weighs and tracks all of the materials which enter the digester. The computer also allows the operational health of the digester to be easily tracked.

OU Fit+Rec Community Garden is a gardening education program designed to offer participants an opportunity to learn where their food comes from as well as to help cultivate participants into better stewards of the environment by designing, nurturing, and harvesting the community garden. Sign up at the front desk of the Sarkeys Fitness Center.  No experience necessary.  Space is limited. 

Students Working at Community Garden
Plantlings at Community Garden
Community Garden Produce
Community Garden Raised Box

Campus dining offers a number of vegetarian and vegan meal options each day. Plant-based diets are less demanding on resources.  At Couch Restaurants, the Vegetation Station serves a vegan entrée, side dish and dessert at both lunch and dinner. The salad bar in Couch Restaurants also provides over 100 different choices including assorted beans and tofu for protein options.  

Trayless dining – Trayless dining at Couch Restaurants cuts food waste and saves water and energy.  Eliminating trays in all-you-can-eat dining facilities helps to reduce over-portioning by diners.  Additionally, by eliminating the trays, there is no longer a need to clean the trays which saves water and energy.

Food Rescue Program –  Housing and Food Services’ food rescue program allows excess, edible food to be picked up and transported to area shelters and soup kitchens. Currently, the Salvation Army participates in the food rescue program.

Powerknot food digester –  The Power Knot Food Digester at Couch Restaurants is an aerobic bio-digester that mixes food waste with Powerzymes (microorganisms).  The food waste is decomposed and converts solid food waste materials into grey water.  The digester is a closed system with an auger in the middle which rotates the materials. Inside of the system are rubber pellets that contain and distribute the enzymes

Meiko dishwasher - Couch Restaurants upgraded their dishwasher to a Meiko unit, which reduces water consumption from 350 gallons an hour to 53 gallons an hour. Additionally, the unit recirculates heat to reduce demand for electricity.  It is estimated that the dish machine saves more than 700,000 gallons of water per year when compared to the previous model.

To-go Containers, Styrofoam and Straws -  Compostable to-go containers have been introduced across campus and Styrofoam cups at all non-franchise Housing and Food Services retail operations have been replaced with coated paper cups.  Plastic straws are no longer offered at Couch Restaurants (except for smoothies served at Freshens).

Reusable Cup Discount -  Bring your own reusable cup and you will receive a discounted price on drinks served at Housing and Food Services non-retail locations.

Food Rescue

Housing & Food Services collecting donations for the Food Rescue program.