Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability

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No Impact Meal - A More Mindful Dinner

A group of four sustainability interns arrives at one of the Loyola University Chicago residence halls, with a rolling cart packed full of food and cooking supplies. The interns have hand-picked the freshest produce and products from the Rogers Park and Edgewater community. They waste no time and immediately begin cutting vegetables, and preparing quinoa. Residents slowly trickle in with the smell of free food but quickly release there's a larger mission behind the meal.

The No Impact Meal (NIM) program is transforming our relationship with food on campus, one meal at a time.  Led by a group sustainability interns since the spring of 2015, the program prepares a local and sustainable meal in Loyola’s residence halls, which allows students to make a conscious connection to their food.  “We want to teach students to rethink their eating habits, both in terms of how it affects our environment and our health,” said Shayna Milst, one of the four sustainability intern helping with No Impact Meals.  

NIM gives interns a platform to channel the goals and initiatives within IES to the greater Loyola community.  Two to three times a semester, the interns coordinate with residence assistances to host a NIM event, where interns and residents prepare a meal together. Students learn about why buying local and seasonal food is healthier, and many find that it is easier than it seems.  “It’s not something you think you would be able to do on this tight budget, living in the dorms, and being on a meal plan, but this program shows you how you can fix that,” said Anika Kroll, a freshman resident.

The core of the program stresses that changed eating habits can reduce one’s environmental impact. “Yes we want to emphasize eating healthy, but the program is also about no impact,” said Meghan Pazik, a sustainability intern. “It’s really about learning to reduce your carbon footprint on the environment as well.” NIM enables students and interns to engage in a thoughtful dialogue about the mileage and carbon intensity of certain foods. With food being the largest source of waste in the United States, and between 30 to 40 percent of food thrown away, NIM teaches students about composting to reduce waste.

However, the conversation doesn’t end when the meal is over.  Office of Sustainability interns want to connect students to Loyola and surrounding Rogers Park. “It’s not only about building community with your food system, it’s also about building community with Loyola,” Pazik said.  Loyola students can reduce their environmental impact by buying local at the Loyola’s farmers market. The Farmers Market will run every Monday through October 17, 2016. Other opportunities for students to make an impact include volunteering with Loyola’s urban agriculture or composting programs. 

If you are interested in learning more about No Impact Meals or planning one with your resident hall, please contact Aaron Durnbaugh at adurnbaugh@luc.edu