Canisius, Chartwells Serve Up Eco-Sustainable Food Options

November 15, 2023
Laudato Si'

Buffalo, NY – As demand for more sustainable options grows, Canisius University has partnered with its food service provider, Chartwells Higher Education, to implement new initiatives aimed at advancing an eco-sustainable campus environment.  

Canisius is currently in the first year of a seven-year sustainability journey, titled Laudato Si’.  The Vatican-led program guides Catholic institutions and communities on ways to achieve an eco-sustainable lifestyle and society.  Canisius was among the first in the country to commit to Laudato Si’.  The new food service initiatives being introduced in partnership with Chartwells are in alignment with Laudato Si’.  

“Our commitment to sustainability is a direct response to the preferences and feedback we have received from students and the Canisius community,” says Janet Elis, director of campus dining for Chartwells.  “We take pride in creating opportunities for students to make more eco-friendly choices that drive positive planetary impacts, one meal at a time.” 

Chartwells’ new eco-friendly initiatives at Canisius include: 

OZZI Boxes – To reduce single-use plastic and paper, Chartwells integrated reusable and recyclable containers into its food dining system.  Called OZZI boxes, these FDA-approved and BPA-free containers have a wax coating so they are easy to rinse, wash and be reused once properly sanitized.  

Students receive an OZZI token at the start of each semester, which they exchange for an OZZI box when they order a meal to-go in the dining hall.  Students return their used OZZI boxes to an OZZI receptacle, at which time the machine dispenses another token for use by students.  

By replacing disposable take-out containers with 100 percent reusable ones, Canisius eliminates the cost and volume of paper and foam products often associated with food service operations, minimizes operation costs, decreases dependency on fossil fuels and reduces the institution’s carbon footprint.  To date, there are 800 OZZI boxes in circulation at Canisius.  

Farmshelf – To feed students in a healthful, responsible and cost-effective way, Chartwells introduced Farmshelf.  The indoor vertical farming company provides hydroponic technology and hardware, which enables Chartwells to grow more than 50 types of leafy greens, herbs and edible flowers, in-house, and elevate its dish offerings with fresh, flavorful and healthy ingredients.  Farmshelf produce prevents nutrient loss, uses 90 percent less water than conventional farming and eliminates fuel consumption, as produce is grown on site versus being delivered from an outside source. 

Goodr - To minimize food waste across campus, Canisius University and Chartwells partnered with Goodr.  The minority- and women-owned sustainable food waste management company leverages technology to coordinate and facilitate the pickup and donation of excess food from campus, which is then distributed accordingly to food shelters in the Buffalo area.  Goodr’s technology platform enables Canisius to measure and manage its surplus food and organic waste, earn tax deductions and support its neighboring communities.  

Independent of a third-party vendor, Chartwells has introduced a new food insecurity program for students.  According to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, an estimated one in three college students experience food insecurity.  The new food insecurity program at Canisius assists students who have limited or uncertain access to adequate food, regardless of their meal plan status.  Students enroll anonymously on the Canisius dining website.  Once enrolled, they receive a message at the end of each day to pick up a takeout meal.  

This is the second food insecurity program to be implemented at Canisius.  The university also maintains Petey’s Pantry, a food pantry for Canisius students that makes available a wide array of non-perishable food, hygiene products and kitchenware.

These new initiatives aimed at advancing an eco-sustainable campus environment are the most recent in a series of educational and sustainable programs and practices implemented by Chartwells.  

Earlier this year, the food service provider introduced climate labeling on its dining options to empower Canisius students to make more informed and sustainable food choices.  The initiative is the result of a partnership between Chartwells and HowGood, an independent research company that maintains the world’s largest database on product sustainability.  With data for more than 33,000 ingredients, chemicals and materials, HowGood is able to analyze recipes from Chartwells’ rotating menu across eight standard metrics: greenhouse gas emissions, processing, water usage, animal welfare, biodiversity, soil health, labor risk and land use.  The dining hall menu options are then labeled accordingly so that students know the environmental and social impact of their food choices.  

Canisius was founded in 1870 in Buffalo, NY, and is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. Consistently ranked among the top institutions in the Northeast, Canisius offers undergraduate, graduate and pre-professional programs distinguished by close student-faculty collaboration, mentoring and an emphasis on ethical, purpose-driven leadership.