Partner Profiles

Beth Bayrd - Marketing Manager, Bon Appétit Management Company

April 4, 2016

Beth Bayrd is marketing manager for Bon Appétit, the University’s food service provider. Beth joined the Bon Appétit team at Penn in 2013, and since then has seen the commitment to environmental sustainability of both the University and Bon Appétit grow. Read more about Beth’s role at Penn and the accomplishments in campus dining we have made as partners.

Q:  When you visit the Bon Appétit Management Company website, the first thing you see is a large banner, “Food Service for a Sustainable Future.”  What does this mean to you as an overall statement from the company?

A:  I like to cook and any good cook knows that the foundation of a tasty meal is using fresh ingredients.  That is the basis of how I cook at home and it is the basis of how our chefs on campus create their menu options. So for me “Food Service for a Sustainable Future” begins with a commitment to using fresh, seasonal ingredients.  That requires us to build relationships with local farmers. Once those relationships are established, it naturally leads to lots of other connections. You start to think about how myriad problems in the food system: How animals are raised, how farm workers are treated, what impact does our food choices have on climate change, etc. I think the path that Bon Appétit took to develop its philosophy is similar to how many of us approached sustainability. It starts from one single concern and expands to include entire interconnected systems.

Q:  How does this kind of commitment play out in the day-to-day dining options on Penn’s campus?

A:  This commitment is integral to what we do here at Penn:  How we source our ingredients; how we design our menus; how we prepare our meals; and how we dispose of our waste. For example, all of our cafes at Penn follow Bon Appétit’s commitment to serve seafood that meets Seafood Watch sustainability guidelines.  Other steps toward a more sustainable café service include reducing the use of antibiotics in farm animals, serving rGH-free milk, sourcing eggs from cage-free hens, and purchasing humanely-raised beef for burgers and pork raised without the use of gestation crates.

But in addition to following sustainable food practices, we also recognize the special role we play on a University campus and, together with Penn staff, invest a lot of effort in educating our diners about sustainable food choices. We do this through events like the Eat Local Challenge and Low Carbon Diet Day and through our support of Food Week – part of Penn’s “Politics of Food Class” taught by Mary Summers and Jane Kauer. We also have implemented campaigns such as Food for Your Wellbeing, which helps our diners understand the impact that their food choices have on both their health and the health of the planet, and our newest effort Watch Your Waste which is aimed at eliminating food waste in all our cafes.

Q:  Being located in West Philadelphia, Penn may not be the first university that comes to mind when thinking about sourcing foods locally. How does Bon Appétit make that “local foods” connection happen?

A: You would be surprised at how many local options are available at Penn. We have a designated Campus Forager, Chef Patterson Watkins of English House who helps establish connections with local farmers and vendors. We currently source from over 36 local farmers (defined as being 150 miles or less from campus) who provide us everything from produce to cheese to mushrooms. Through our Locally Crafted Program we purchase from local vendors (such as Rival Brothers Coffee) as well as supporting the Center for Culinary Enterprises at The Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia, which helps nurture fledgling entrepreneurs. For instance, we sell White & Wong Cookies, a company started by two Wharton Grads, and nurtured by The Enterprise Center, which now has its one facility in Center City Philadelphia.  We also source from Penn itself. You can find cheese produced by Penn’s Veterinary School at the New Bolton Center in Chester County served in our cafes.

Q:  Besides sourcing food in a sustainable manner, are there other things that Bon Appétit does to support their commitment to sustainability?

A:  We are committed to minimizing our food waste. We collect all our kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings for composting or for use as animal feed. We also launched the Food Recovery Initiative in collaboration with Feeding America. The program, currently in place at 1920 Commons and Hill, works with Salvation Army Pioneers and Philabundance, local hunger relief organizations, to donate food that was prepared but not served.

 Q:  What are some things that students or staff can do to promote sustainability when dining in one of Bon Appétit’s locations on campus?

A:  Dining recently launched the Watch Your Waste campaign to help diners understand the steps they can take to reduce landfill volume.  The campaign has three components. The first encourages diners at Houston Hall and other retail cafes to minimize their use of items that can’t be recycled. We call these items the Flagrant Five: chopsticks, coffee stirs, condiment packs, straws and napkins. Almost everything else in our cafes can be recycled.

The second focus is letting students know how to manage their food waste. At our residential cafes, diners are asked to scrape their food waste after they finish. This waste is then composted and turned into animal feed for our local farmers.  Anything other than food scraps – including items such as napkins, paper, miscellaneous trash, etc. – contaminates the rest of the container, forcing our compost vendor to send it to landfill rather than the farm.

In our retail cafes, we are working to educate people to not put food scraps in the recycle bin as it fouls the bin and, again, forces our vendors to send the entire bin to the landfill.  Putting recyclable containers in the trash adds unnecessary volume to the landfill.  Diners should separate leftover food from its container whenever possible:  food goes into the trash bin, and cleaned plastic and paper go in the recycling bin.

The third area of focus is eliminating the amount of food waste in our all-you-care-to-eat residential cafes. We ask diners to take only what they are craving, and then finishing all they take to their table!

 Q:  Share with us some things you’d like to see happen over the next few years on Penn’s campus to further advance sustainable dining?

A: Both Bon Appétit and Penn are always looking for ways to expand their commitment to sustainability. The Watch Your Waste campaign and the partnership with Feeding America grew out of collaborations with students and staff at Penn. We hope to see more of those types of engagements as they help members of the Penn community, particularly our students, see the important contributions that dining makes - not only to improving campus sustainability, but the overall Penn experience.