FAMU Dining Serves Up Healthy Choices

Whether at the Café, the Rattler’s Nest, or any of the other Metz-operated dining facilities on campus, FAMU students, faculty and staff can find plenty of ways to eat healthy meals while also protecting the environment.

One reason is that when the Metz Culinary Services was chosen as the campus food service company in 2014, an important criterion was the company’s commitment to sustainability.

Metz makes a concerted effort to serve plenty of produce, offer vegetarian options, and increase educational efforts to encourage healthy dining habits, including encouraging diners to avoid food waste. Also, company policy sets out standards for behind-the-scenes sustainability practices.

Each day, a range of wholesome produce is provided, including vegetarian entrees for those choosing to “eat low on the food chain.” Choosing plant-based proteins is eco-friendly because many studies show that meat production requires much more energy and other inputs than plant production. This is essentially because two stages of production are required—growing the plant food to feed the animals, then growing the animals themselves.

Meat production is responsible for significantly more greenhouse gases emissions than plant production. Gases released include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides – three main greenhouse gases. The “water footprint” of meat is also big—for example, it takes 1,800- 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Studies show that relying more greatly on plant protein also provides health benefits – vegetarian diets are associated with lower blood pressure and lower incidences of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes.

For those new to sampling vegetarian food, there is a daily veggie special at the “Main Plate” to try tasty new items like quinoa casserole. While fried chicken is a reliable standard on “Fried Chicken Wednesdays,” Chef Clark Thomas and his team also provide lower-fat options such as grilled and baked chicken and fish.


Campus diners can choose from a wide selection of frest fruits and vegetables.

Metz is committed to purchasing only NAE (No Antibiotics Ever) chicken by the end of 2016. Metz also uses line caught tuna, cage-free eggs and steroid-free chicken breasts.

As for the other part of the food equation, the choices made by diners, Metz uses informational displays at dining locations encourage patrons to do their part to select wisely and to minimize waste. Signs promote selection of colorful produce, encourage diners to try “Meatless Mondays,” and exhort all to “Take what you like, but eat what you take” to prevent food waste.

Another important strategy for sustainable dining operations is the drive to source more locally grown produce. Tallahassee and Leon County are striving to strengthen the local food economy, make wholesome more accessible to all citizens and support small- and medium-scale farmers who help to make that possible. As a historically agricultural university, FAMU is striving to model this more sustainable approach in its campus food systems by taking lessons from the classroom and the field to its dining operations.

no waste pic

The dining areas feature messages that encourage nutritious food choices and waste prevention.


Viticulture Center Helps Invigorate Muscadine Wine Industry

FAMU’s Viticulture Center is famous for its annual Grape Harvest Festival, taking place this Saturday and open to the community (find out more about the day’s festivities here). This year’s festival features celebrity hosts FAMU President Elmira Mangum and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and marks 38 years of operation for the center. While the fun of stomping grapes captures much attention, the science of what goes into making those grapes is what drives the Viticulture Center’s mission. Work at the center is pioneering tastier versions of table and wine grapes derived from native American muscadine grapes, helping to grow Florida’s growing wine industry and to playing a role in improving sustainability of the wine industry globally.

vit vineyardFormally called the Center for Viticulture and Small Fruits Research, it is the only specialized academic center on grape research in the Southeastern US. It is charged with conducting basic and applied research and providing service to promote the development of a viable viticulture industry in Florida. According to the Florida Wine and Grape Growers Association, there are 24 certified wineries in Florida, covering 500 acres, and producing slightly under 2 million gallons of wine.

Research at the site on the eastern fringes of Tallahassee takes place in the 44-acre vineyard and in a set of well-equipped laboratories. Work includes traditional breeding methods for plant selection along with high-tech biotechnology and in-vitro selection, according to director Dr. Violeta Tsolova. A mix of science and art create variations in grapes and wines that are produced, with a surprising range of flavors. Decisions at various points in the production process lead to variations in tastes.

Mr. Matteo Voltarelli, a wine maker from Italy who has brought his expertise to the center, notes that in wine making in particular, good results come “mostly of decisions, timely decisions!”

grapetastingBesides developing new and improved grape cultivars, work at the center includes devising best management practices for Florida grapes and selected small fruit. The Center maintains a “National Clean Plant Center” for grapes by growing native hybrids free of diseases that could harm crops. Twenty-three varieties of economically important hybrid varieties of muscadine and other native grapes are grown and certified to be free of disease.

In addition to breeding efforts, researchers have their eyes on the potential contributions that disease-tolerant native grapes might have to the global wine industry as a whole. Genetic resources from native grapes including muscadines may be incorporated to boost capacity of conventional grapes for resisting disease and adapting to climate change.

studentsViticultureLabAlready the center has drawn international interest from international partners and exchange faculty and students from China, Brazil, France, Israel, Italy, Austria, and Germany. Students from high school through graduate students also receive hands-on science training at the center, working under the tutelage of research scientists in the lab and in the field. In the past five years, 14 graduate and 22 undergraduate student researchers have taken part, making the center a productive locale for boosting STEM education.




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FAMU Hosts Vice Chancellor from Leading Indian Agricultural University

Dr. N. C. Patel, vice chancellor of Anand Agricultural University, Gujarat, India, spent a day at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University meeting with deans, faculty, and officials to discuss how the two universities can collaborate on research and service to advance solutions for sustainable agriculture. The visit was facilitated by the FAMU Sustainability Institute.

FAMU’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute Abena Ojetayo said “we are very pleased with this partnership in India, a nation with great promise in sustainable development. These relations help us share expertise and experiences that lead to real impact at home here in Florida and for communities across the ocean.”

“Ultimately we want to see that the people on the globe have sufficient food, energy, and a clean environment. In the context of that, universities play a strong role,” said Dr. Patel.

The universities are exploring establishing student and faculty exchanges and undertaking collaborative research in areas including crop production, soil science, biotechnology, nanotechnology, climate and meteorological sciences, and renewable energy. Patel’s visit is a component of FAMU’s Memorandum of Understanding with India’s National Council for Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Public Leadership (NCCSD) to promote solutions in sustainability, agriculture, climate change, and other STEM areas.

“We are brainstorming to see how we can solve these global issues together,” said Dr. Odemari Mbuya, faculty director of the Sustainability Institute. Dr. Mbuya, along with FAMU Professor Mehboob Sheikh, Ph.D., had just returned from a similar visit to India to various universities, organizations, and farms to give guest lectures and plan collaboration efforts.

The Dean of CAFS, Dr. Robert Taylor, welcomed Dr. Patel warmly. “We’re very sincere about these initiatives we want to develop with you and we are looking forward to what we can do with you.”

In addition to meeting with faculty members from the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Dr. Patel met with University President Dr. Elmira Mangum, Provost Marcella David, Vice President for International Education Dr. William Hyndman, Vice President for Research Dr. Tim Moore, and deans and faculty from other colleges and sschools. Dr. Patel concluded the day’s visit with a tour of the renowned FAMU Center for Viticulture and Small Fruits.


New EnergyWaterFoodNexus Science Enterprise Launched at FAMU

Florida A&M University hosted the inaugural EnergyWaterFoodNexus Summit, an international conference that connected a global network of over 300 researchers, innovators, and other stakeholders working in the energy, water, and food sectors. Participants from as far away as South Africa, Hungary, and India joined local and regional attendees to share knowledge. Led by the FAMU School of the Environment with collaboration from the Sustainability Institute and several colleges and schools, the summit also included co-sponsors from the City of Tallahassee’s Environmental Policy & Energy Resources division, the US Department of Energy ARPA-E as well as private sector contributors like SalterMitchell and Yum! Brands.

The EnergyWaterFoodNexus is a new science enterprise launched at FAMU through an international, public-private partnership that seeks to provide sustainable and innovative solutions global security.

During the summit, participants from various disciplines had the chance to learn about and work together to tackle complex issues affecting every community. The lineup of renowned speakers included Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, New York Times best-selling author of “The Big Thirst” Charles Fishman and European Commission head of innovation Istvan Kenyeres.

Summit chair and dean of the FAMU School of the Environment Dr. Victor Ibeanusi explained the purpose of the EWFN.

“The intent of the EWFN is to brand this as a new science enterprise designed to provide solutions to the global energy, water and food crisis,” Ibeanusi said. “Students can also interact with international leaders in agriculture, business research, technology and more."

Odemari Mbuya, faculty director for the FAMU Sustainability Institute and professor in the center for water and air quality ensured that there are solutions to these globally vexing problem.

“Energy, water, and food, they are all related,” Mbuya said. “There are problems which cover all those three … so we are looking for solutions."

Kirit Shelat, the chair of India’s National Council for Climate Change and Sustainability Development, led a contingency of scientists and agronomist from India to attend the summit. The NCCSD signed a memorandum of understanding with FAMU to collaborate on research, faculty and student exchanges.

Speaking on the prospects of the MOU between the two organizations, Shelat said “FAMU can make available appropriate technology related to climate smart agriculture and smart city management for its replication in India.”

Mbuya explained the importance of working internationally with various organizations.

“We need to work together, which is the purpose of the memorandum of understanding. We can work with people in different parts of the world and gain the right tools to better control [our global environment]… If we can better predict upcoming changes, we can plan appropriate mitigation,” Mbuya said.

The summit presented several themes and tracks for participants, discovering emerging innovations, understand policy implications and accelerate technology. Furthermore, Idea Hack sessions aimed at solving complex problems that require multidisciplinary and diverse perspectives brought together multidisciplinary young and experienced collaborators to “pitch” a challenge and open up for an informal brainstorming session. 

Learn more about the EWFN science enterprise at FAMU at


FAMU’s Community Garden Grows Food and Community

While riding down Orange Avenue west of Monroe Street, many people are so determined to reach their destination that they often overlook the land across from the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School. In this area lies the Florida A&M University Community Garden, a place where a fertile mind can cultivate a love for agriculture.

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, the FAMU Community Garden held its open house for the public to learn about the gardening that takes place within this three-acre expanse. The open house concluded an entire week of special campus activities sponsored by the FAMU Sustainability Institute to commemorate Earth Week. Even under overcast skies and the likelihood of rain, farmers still tended to their plots and offered their advice.

According to garden manager Trevor Hylton, Extension Agent with FAMU and University of Florida IFAS Extension, the community garden is one of the oldest in the state. It was established on the southern end of the campus property over 40 years ago, and is maintained by FAMU and the Leon County Cooperative Extension service. The garden contains 71 plots that are 40 by 40 feet wide. “We give away a lot of food; it’s a lot more for teaching than anything else,” said Hylton. Members grow produce for their family and community.

FAMU Community Garden welcomes newcomers and allows gardeners to plant whatever their hearts desire. Those who attended the open house witnessed a melting pot of members with various backgrounds that reflect growing traditions from around the world, including plants traditional to Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Many gardeners were on hand to explain what they are growing to interested members of the public.

Charlotta Ivy, minister at the Sowing Seeds Sewing Comfort Ministry Sanctuary Garden, was tending to her plot during the open house. Ivy has been growing at the community garden for 2.5 years and gets help from volunteers at the church and members of the community. They are currently growing tomatoes, carrots, Brussel’s sprouts, watermelon, and more. Ivy also uses all natural fertilizer – “worm poop” – to fertilize the plants. She explained that everything they grow is either donated or kept by volunteers. “We give out food to senior citizens and family in community,” she said.

In 2014, FAMU students began gardening on one plot. Ursula Ible, one of the students who began the FAMU student plot, said the garden’s open house was a great opportunity to teach and show the work that gardeners do. “No matter what organization you are a part of, you should get involved with gardening because it will prioritize your nutrition and eating habits,” Ible said.

Hylton noted that every year the FAMU community garden donates thousands of pounds of fresh produce to charitable organizations. “FAMU’s community garden has been a stalwart in the community and has become the standard bearer for community gardens, with an unmatched endurance, because it is guided by the creeds of the University’s motto ‘Excellence with Caring,” he said.

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Sustainability @ FAMU

Sustainability at Florida A&M University is about the teaching, research and application of environmental and resource stewardship so people and planet prosper. The Sustainability Institute serves as the hub of all sustainability-related efforts at the university, bringing students, staff, faculty and the community together around creative collaborations.

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