Sustainable Food

Sustainable campus initiatives are sometimes behind the scenes or go relatively unnoticed to the casual observer.  On the other hand, some aspects of campus are incredibly visible and sustainability initiatives – or the lack thereof – are highly visible.  Dining halls fall into the highly visible category, and sustainable food and waste minimization and diversion play out front and center.

The dedicated staff of the Williams College Dining Services works hard to meet the nutritional needs of the student body, while paying close attention to allergens, dietary restrictions and environmentally and ethically sustainable food options.  The Zilkha Center staff and interns support the Dining team by advocating for climate-friendly and sustainable food options, collecting and analyzing food data, and by working on outreach and communications to raise the profile of sustainable food on campus.

Learn more about Dining Services & sustainability on their website. 


Sustainability Certifications

  • The college, following recommendation by the ZC, signed on to the Cool Food Pledge, a call on organizations to reduce food-related GHG emissions by 25% by 2030 and to shift to more plant-rich menus. ZC student interns have worked with the CFP to compile all Dining Services food purchases from FY18-FY21 and calculate food-related emissions over that time in order to establish a baseline and track trends over time. The preliminary results informed the fall menu-planning process and the ZC discussed additional strategies to reduce emissions with the chefs and unit managers. Delicious plant-rich options this year will include BYO Grain Bowls, Plant-Rich Mondays at Mission.

  • Green Restaurant Association certification program: “GRA provides a transparent way to measure each restaurant/dining unit’s environmental accomplishments - across eight categories - while providing a pathway for the next steps they can take to increase their environmental sustainability.” All units in Paresky achieved GRA Level 1 certification last year. The other units will be pursuing GRA this year.


Engaging with Sustainable Food on Campus

If you would like to get involved with sustainable food efforts on campus, click on the image below.

Getting Involved

Zilkha Center’s Role in Food

Sustainable food interns Allison Li ’22 and Gold Carson ’23 after leading lunch-and-learns about food values and food workers. (2019)

The Zilkha Center advocates for increased sustainable food purchasing and further integrating sustainability into Dining’s daily operations. In addition to coordinating Williams’ annual Cool Food Pledge data collection, the Zilkha Center collaborates with Dining to research and propose sustainable food initiatives and to periodically work on special events such as the 150 Mile Meals.

Furthermore, the Zilkha Center strives to educate the broader campus community regarding sustainable food by organizing campaigns about real food and discussions surrounding food justice. In Fall 2019, the Zilkha Center partnered with many student groups, offices, and departments across campus to present Food Justice Week and Beyond, a series of events intended to increase campus engagement with sustainable food and food justice issues, and help the Williams community define its food values.