By Neale McDevitt
Talk about the icing on your cake. When it was announced on March 29 that Food and Dining Services (FDS) had just been named winner of a Green Business Award for Sustainability, it was pretty sweet. That the award came from the McGill chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), based in the Desautels Faculty of Management, made the announcement that much more significant.
“It was great to be recognized by students,” said Mathieu Laperle, Director of Food and Hospitality Services, FDS. “In the past there has been a disconnect between FDS and students but we revamped our vision and philosophy and, happily, it seems to be working.”
Two years ago, FDS, led by Laperle and Oliver De Volpi, Executive Chef, put in place a new strategic plan designed to make the unit more sustainable. This included, among other initiatives, buying more produce from Macdonald Campus Farm and local growers in order to serve fresher food in University cafeterias and with a significantly reduced carbon footprint.
The model, though successful (this past year alone FDS purchased some 32,200 pounds of Mac produce and 4,500 pounds of meat), is not without its price. “When we first stated this, we were worried about
logistical issues like ordering and deliveries,” said De Volpi, “so a lot of the cost came in terms of energy and effort to organize it.
“But there are monetary costs as well,” he continues. “When we make the decision to buy a piece of pork that is raised humanely, without antibiotics or nitrates, as opposed to pork that is raised on these mass farms, there is a cost associated to it. But that is where we use our best judgment to absorb these costs elsewhere in our operations.”
When SIFE approached FDS to be part of the program and allow a professional evaluator do an extensive analysis of the unit’s
business practices based on suppliers (local or not), energy consumption, waste management, water consumption, methods of transportation and recycling efforts, Laperle jumped at the chance. “We definitely didn’t go into this looking to win an award. We saw it as a chance to get some feedback on our operations,” he said. “Winning was just a bonus.”
Or, some would say, just desserts.