Local & Sustainable Food


Keany Produce – Through our contract with Keany Produce Distributor we are able to source from dozens of local farms. We consider local to be within a 250-mile radius, and continually support farms such as Crown Orchards and Bubba’s Sweet Nectar in VA, Hess Farms and Davis Mushroom in PA, and Shlagel Farm in MD.

In-House Herbs – Southside and Ike’s both grow a share of their own herbs! Mason Dining implemented Urban Cultivator growing systems in each unit, equipped with lighting, watering, and automated monitoring of Ph balance for the plants. Herbs grow year-round in the cultivators where customers can observe dining staff seeding, harvesting, and serving these flavorful microgreens. Not only do the cultivators help us reduce food miles, but they also add unique flavors to the resident dining menus.

President’s Park Greenhouse– Ike’s is proud to sponsor the Presidents Park Greenhouse, operated by the Office of Sustainability. Mason Dining sources all lettuce, herbs, and microgreens from the greenhouse for Ike’s salad bar and menu. Tours and volunteer opportunities are available in the greenhouse – see where your food comes from and help grow some!

Zeponic – Zeponic Farms, located in Woodbridge, VA, is a family-owned and operated “Freight Farm,” a hydroponic growing operation that supplies Southside with ~300 heads of fresh lettuce each week. Through a unique business model, the farm employs students from the Mason LIFE program, providing meaningful work for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sodexo at Mason Dining is proud to support this important work by purchasing everything Zeponic Farms grows. Find their fresh butter leaf and romaine lettuce at the Southside salad bar and grill station!

Farm-to-Table Dinners – Our chefs work to source food locally when it is available. We host farm to table dinners in the resident dining halls featuring locally-sourced foods to celebrate the abundance of the region, support local agriculture, and educate diners about local and seasonal availability. Eating a local and seasonal diet reduces food miles and manufactured inputs before the food reaches your plate. By purchasing from local farms, we boost the local economy and promote agricultural in Virginia and nearby communities. Keep an eye on the marketing calendars for the next farm to table dinner and reach out to the Sustainability team if you would like to be involved.

Vegan & Plant-based program – An increasing number of our customers, staff, and vendors are interested in eating plant-based diets, for health, social, and environmental reasons. We are committed to providing nutritious meals for all diets and are excited about the expanding demand for plant-based diets. Our team aims to make it easy and delicious to reduce dietary intake of animal products for customers who are concerned about the negative effects of the meat and dairy industries. Through feedback from customer surveys and engaging with students in the GMU Vegan Society, we gain inspiration and ideation for improving our plant-based offerings around campus. In partnership with the Humane Society’s Food Forward program, we run a plant-based cooking/menu training for our chefs and managers to keep on top of current trends toward vegan and vegetarianism.

Animal Welfare Commitments – Sodexo currently sources shell eggs from cage-free operations and its pork from producers who do not use gestation crates. These commitments have recently been expanded to a commitment to source all liquid eggs from cage-free hens by the end of 2020. Sodexo Universities segment will source cage-free liquid and hard-cooked/boiled eggs with a phased-in approach beginning this July, to be complete by the end of 2018. In 2017, Sodexo eliminated the use of veal crates from its supply chain. The company has outlined a phased approach to sourcing poultry, beef and veal from suppliers who foster improved animal well-being. Five of our most high volume pork products – in the bacon, pork butt and pork loin categories – will transition to open sow housing this July, which allows the sow to roam more freely after the pregnancy is confirmed.

Sustainable seafood – Mason Dining is proud to serve 100% sustainably sourced seafood in our dining halls, certified by the Aquaculture Certification Council, which enforces standards for social, environmental, and food safety at seafood farming facilities throughout the world, and the Marine Stewardship Council, which focuses on maintaining healthy fish stocks and reducing ecosystem impacts of fisheries for wild-caught fish.

Honey - Mason Dining has partnered with the Honey Bee Initiative (HBI) to offer honey produced by Mason bees to our campus community. Through donations to the HBI, Sodexo received 4oz and 8oz jars of local raw honey, available for sale in the Johnson Center Express convenience store while supplies last. With this program, we demonstrate our support for sustainable beekeeping and intend to raise awareness about the importance of protecting honeybees from Colony Collapse Disorder, which threatens the global food supply. In the future, we hope to expand Dining’s partnership with the HBI, offering more Mason honey across campus. Currently, Southside and the Globe do source locally harvested raw honey from Bubba’s Sweet Nectar in Waynesboro, VA.

Palm Oil – Production and use of palm oil is a large-scale environmental problem. While growing palm can be less resource intensive than other oil-producing plants, the carbon emissions from palm oil land conversion are estimated to represent between 15 and 18% of global carbon emissions resulting from the drying of peatlands and the burning of land. Palm oil is a favorable product for cooking and found in many multi-ingredient products our consumers demand. However, it is largely responsible for deforestation, which is incompatible with Sodexo’s values and the commitments that the company has made within the Better Tomorrow Plan. Therefore, we have committed to working with our suppliers to source sustainable palm oil in the products that we buy. Where Sodexo is not able to source sustainable palm oil, we will purchase GreenPalm certificates to reward palm producers who are working in a sustainable and responsible way. Sodexo has defined a time-bound strategy for sustainable palm oil in conjunction with the WWF as part of its technical agreement on Sustainable Agriculture. Sodexo became a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in August 2011 and became a member of GreenPalm in January 2012. Each year, we carry out a full survey of the palm oil volumes that we purchase as a company through procurement reports of our margarine and frying oil and submit to the WWF Palm Oil Buyer Scorecard. We developed and continue to deploy our Sustainable Palm Oil toolkit to raise awareness internally and with our suppliers on the important environmental impacts of palm oil. Our work with suppliers of frying oil and margarine has enabled us to inform those who were not already informed about the environmental and social issues surrounding palm oil and how they could take measures to improve their sustainability.

Fair Trade Coffee – Aspretto is Sodexo’s ethical and sustainable global coffee brand that answers the market’s call for a sustainable, “green” product. It is fair-trade purchased, Fair Trade USA certified, and a partner of the Rainforest Alliance. Through years-long arrangements with companies in coffee-producing communities, we support the values of Fair Price and just working conditions. At the same time, we give back to the communities – For every pound of coffee and tea sold a financial contribution is donated to non-profit organizations that sponsor and support programs to combat hunger and malnutrition, helping those at risk in the communities where we operate.

Fair Trade Tomatoes – Sodexo is a partner of the Fair Food Program and has committed to purchase tomatoes only from growers with ethical labor standards. At Mason, we source tomatoes from Florida growers who abide by the Fair Food Code of Conduct – one of the most comprehensive, verifiable and sustainable social responsibility program in US agriculture. Click here for information on the history behind this movement.