Walking through the glass doors into the open, welcoming entryway, students and visitors this past fall were introduced to an all-new Crossroads Dining Room. Through a long-term partnership, Concordia-Chicago and dining provider Sodexo worked to renovate the main dining hall on campus. While the public space certainly looks transformed, much has changed behind the scenes as the cafeteria adopts new green initiatives, running more efficiently while being environmentally friendly.

Check out a few of the highlights below, and for the full story, read the Fall 2021 issue of the Forester.

Near the entrance, the first thing that catches the eye is two futuristic-looking glass cabinets brimming with leafy greens—a hydroponic growing system supplied by a company called Farmshelf. The company sends the seeds to CUC, where the dining hall staff plants them in pods and places them in trays of water. Farmshelf monitors the cabinets remotely from New York, and sends instructions on when to move shelves up or down, or add water. In addition to providing some ultra-fresh produce to the cafeteria, the growing shelves are an educational tool. “It’s amazing what people don’t realize about how food is grown,” says Frank Budig, Sodexo general manger.

A few steps farther in, returning diners will notice that they are no longer grabbing a tray as they enter. There are two reasons for this: to lessen the amount of food wasted, and to reduce the amount of water used in washing the trays. Based on their pre-pandemic studies, Sodexo estimates that the cafeteria will save 20% of food waste by going trayless—about a quarter pound of food per person, per day, for a total of 40,000 pounds per year.

One way to cut down on non-biodegradable Styrofoam containers is to eliminate the need for students to take food to-go. Crossroads Dining Room is trying that approach this year with the introduction of continuous dining hours—they are now open all day from 7:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Previously, if a student had classes scheduled back-to-back during traditional lunch hours, they would probably have to grab their meal to-go during a quick break period. Now, they can come in and sit down for lunch at their leisure.

Sodexo has taken the additional step of replacing Styrofoam containers with reusable ones. They have rolled out the translucent, lime-green boxes in two different sizes, as well as a cup with a lid, available to all students and employees.