Changing the World One Cup of Coffee at a Time

UC Riverside Dining Services Serves Up Sustainability

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — When you buy a cup of UC Riverside’s Highlander Blend Coffee, you’re making a difference in a developing country. Known for its struggle with deep poverty, child hunger, and social issues – Guatemala is also one of the largest coffee producers in the world. And some of the coffee that comes in that much needed cup of joe on campus, comes from Jumaytepeque, Guatemala — a rural community with very limited access to water during the dry season.

UCR Dining Services continually strives to improve on its sustainability efforts and meet the University of California, Office of the President’s (UCOP) sustainability guidelines, and in terms of coffee that means — Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Shade Grown or Organic certified. At the same time the campus has desires to inspire its population to purchase a more sustainable coffee option, and make a difference in the communities growing those coffee beans. So, after final negotiations on a coffee contract UCR Dining Services and Java City decided they could do more. Dining Services agreed to allocate 15 cents per pound of coffee and Java City committed to matching funds toward a project of UCR’s choosing. It was decided that there was nothing more important than clean drinking water, and hearing about the issue around clean drinking water in Guatemala sealed the decision.  Thanks to this collaboration, folks in Jumaytepeque now have better access to this precious resource. How? The money raised is going toward building water pumps and infrastructure. Farmers, who have traveled long distances in the past to access water, can now obtain clean water at home, eliminating the tiring and tedious trip for clean water.

Guatemalan farmer filling water jugs to take back to village.

Guatemalan farmer filling water jugs to take back to village.

“It was very compelling and touching,” said Cheryl Garner,executive director of Dining Services, “these farmers relied on one hose that was turned on for four hours a day, and had to carry water back to their homes, sometimes many miles. Now they can access and store clean water much easier.”

In addition to matching the 15 cents per pound, Java City convinced its importing and exporting partners to generate a total of 60 cents per pound to fund the project. They dug the first wells in August 2014. Between the commitments of UCR, Java City and its partners, more than $120,000 has been raised to help this community.

Leftover Food, Doesn’t go to Waste

UCR is making a making a difference abroad, but the campus is also making a difference at home. The leftover food at the end of each day goes to Inland Harvest, a non-profit organization committed to transporting surplus food to established charitable feeding programs in the Inland Empire. Gustavo Plascencia, General Manager of Sustainability for Dining Services, says they’ve been doing this since before his time, and if you’re wondering how long Plascencia has been with UCR Dining – it’s been 22 years.  One example of how the food is used can be seen locally at St. George’s Episcopal Church near UCR, which has a college student feeding night every Thursday at 6 p.m. And guess who primarily goes to those dinners? UCR students! Talk about full circle.

“We always knew that we would indirectly impact our students and community,” says Plascencia. It’s not mandated by Dining Services that the food donated somehow make its way back to our campus community, it just happened to work out that way.

And finally, the UCR Chapter of Swipes for the Homeless has decided that a portion of the proceeds from their first ever campaign that occurred this quarter will go towards Feeding America – a group dedicated to feeding the homeless in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.  Proceeds will also go to UCR’s R’Garden, a space for students, faculty, and staff to grow fresh produce while learning about social, environmental, and economical sustainability. UCR Dining also happens to buy produce from the R’Garden, and uses it in meals served on campus, putting money directly back into our university. Our student group will be growing some of the produce that they will be donating moving forward.

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E-mail: mojgan.sherkat@ucr.edu
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