Cool Food Meals Badge Program Offers Healthy, Environmentally Friendly Food Options

Friday, February 11, 2022

UNCW is one of 10 universities now offering Cool Foods Meals, a pilot program for colleges that identifies campus food options that are better for the environment, developed by the World Resources Institute.   

“I’m excited to be bringing the Cool Food Program to UNCW as we think outside the box with better food choices for our students and our planet,” said Gino Galutera, UNCW director of auxiliary services and interim vice chancellor of business services.

This semester, more than 350 menu items in Wagoner Hall are tagged with the Cool Food Meals badge, indicating that they have a low carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) generated by human actions like farming, transportation and production. Overall, foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts have a lower carbon footprint than foods like red meat, chicken and cheeses because of the difference in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated from farm to table.  

On campus, plant-based and vegan options such as French fries, stir fry dishes, yogurt bowls and flatbread pizzas are all examples of foods that are Cool Food Meal badge-worthy, based on criteria established by WRI.   

The badge, a green and white laminated placard placed beside each menu item, is easy for students to spot. The card states, “This is a Cool Food Meal. Cool Food Meals have a low impact on the climate, making them a delicious way to help the planet.”   

Annie O’Neill ’22, a UNCW senior double majoring in English and Spanish, works as a peer educator in the Office of Sustainability. She has been a pescatarian or vegetarian since she was four years old and is always looking for well-balanced options that do not include meat.  

“During my time at UNCW, I’ve seen a lot of growth for more plant-based options,” she said. “It is definitely exciting and refreshing to see those options growing, not only at UNCW but also in restaurants and grocery stores.”  

Aramark, the company that provides food and staffing for UNCW Campus Dining, is the first contract catering company to adopt the Cool Food Meals badge. Since 2015, Aramark has increased its climate-healthy, plant-forward menu options through its Healthy for Life® initiative.  

According to UNCW Chief Sustainability Officer Kat Pohlman, the Cool Food Meals program is part of UNCW’s ongoing commitment to the environment and sustainability.  

 “It’s important that we educate the community on the impact of purchased items on greenhouse gas emissions and regional resiliency,” said Pohlman. “This program is a daily reminder that each choice we make has the potential to create a more robust local economy and environmental stewardship.”  

-- Krissy Vick