Within the residential college structure, Housing and Dining serves the integral role of providing the student body with nutritious and appetizing food. To best fulfill this service, Housing and Dining combines meal plans with the traditional ingredients of wholesome food, convenience and a friendly staff. Dining Service's talented and award-winning culinary team is eager to provide a seemingly unlimited variety of food while upholding the standards of sustainability and wellness. Below is a list of sustainable practices Housing and Dining has incorporated in its dining operations.
Fair-Trade Coffee—Fair-trade locally-roasted organic coffee was introduced to the Rice campus by the student-run Rice Coffeehouse in 2005, and Housing and Dining only serves fair-trade coffee as well.
Farmers Market—Rice University operates a campus Farmers Market every Tuesday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. year-round, bringing fresh locally raised agricultural goods to the Rice and Houston communities while creating a viable marketplace for the region's farmers and ranchers.
Food Reuse—Many dishes or side items can be stored and recycled into new dishes. For example, grilled chicken goes without sauce until placed on the serving line. The remaining chicken is frozen and may be shredded, or chopped for use in soups, stews, or other dishes. Vegetables du jour undergo similar recycling.
Health Conscious—The entire dining operation is trans-fats free. Housing and Dining set a goal in 2010 of reducing salt, sugar and saturated fat in campus food by 50 percent. Over 90 percent of the food served in the campus dining halls is made from scratch on-site.
ID Card Swiping—Housing and Dining emphasizes the importance of swiping when entering the servery because the data collected (e.g. number of swipes at lunch roughly correlates to number of diners) is used to prepare a precise amount of food so that each kitchen produces as little waste as possible.
Local Food Sourcing—Chefs often prepare dishes from foods bought at the farmers market. About 30 percent of Rice’s food budget is used for local purchases. Every college kitchen and servery participates in a program to purchase food from Houston-area farms allowing them to feature local produce on the serving lines.
Root-to-Stem—This practice involves using the whole plant for multiple dishes on the serving line. For example, fresh carrot stems can be cut up to make pesto or go into a salad.
Sustainable Seafood— Seafood purchases are made in accordance with guidelines established by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.
Trayless Dining—The university practices trayless dining, a program created by students as a pilot class project in 2008 to reduce food waste and utility consumption that was implemented campus-wide in the spring of 2009. Trayless dining lead to diners removing less food from the servery, reducing post-consumer food waste by thirty percent, and reducing pre-consumer waste by eleven percent. This enabled the serveries to serve the same number of people with less food. This means overall less waste on both ends of the production cycle.
Veg-Friendly—Vegetarian and vegan entrees are available at every meal.