Feeding “America’s Environmental College” can be a challenge. Vegans and vegetarians, those with food allergies, and some pretty carnivorous carnivores — the food preferences of Unity College staff, faculty, and students are as wide-ranging as their views on the environment. And Unity College wouldn’t have it any other way. Lately, pescatarians — those who do not eat meat, but do eat fish — and other seafood lovers have been getting treated to something special.

A recent partnership with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has resulted in Unity College becoming a Champion in the Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested® program. While the partnership broadens the College’s offerings from the sea, even introducing diners to delicious fish they may not have thought of trying, the job of satisfying all those various food preferences falls to the award-winning Dining Services staff.

Last summer, Unity College was recognized by the National Association of College and University Food Services as a changemaker in the promotion and implementation of environmental sustainability in campus dining options. Through partnerships with organizations such as the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, in addition to implementing sustainability-minded policies and procedures, Unity College’s Dining Services continue to make a splash both locally and nationally.

“We have this beautiful resource available to us in Maine,” said Jenny MacArthur, Assistant Director of Dining Services. “Becoming a Champion in the Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested® program means that we commit to making sure 100 percent of the flaky, white fish we serve is coming from our region’s waters and supporting local fisheries.”

“As America’s Environmental College, we try to source our food locally as much as possible, and this recognition by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute is external validation. Becoming a ‘Champion’ gives us an opportunity to partner with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to promote sustainable practices and healthy eating off campus as well,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Our goal is to create a dining system and experience that not only serves our students with delicious, locally-sourced food, but also serves as an exemplar of sustainable practices.”

In addition to partnering with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Unity College has aligned purchasing guidelines with the Real Food Challenge, which helps guide dining decisions to encourage a sustainable, local, fair, and humane food system. It’s part of an effort to educate consumers on what they’re eating, to ensure they have the tools to make the best choice possible. Simultaneously, the college has also taken steps to increase the amount of plant-based options for diners. Culinary professionals recently visited campus for two days of training, to help teach Dining staff, and create plant-forward menu options.

“A hundred or two hundred years ago people would eat a more plant-focused diet,” said Lorey Duprey, Director of Dining Services. “Meat and fish was an accent for the meal, not the entirety of it. And with a lot of well-known athletes converting to plant-forward diets, there has been an increased interest in expanding those options. We have had a lot of positive feedback based on the plant-forward recipes so far; sustainably sourced fish is an important complement to plant-forward options and we’re excited about being a Gulf of Maine Research Institute Champion.”

*Photo courtesy of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute: Redfish (pictured above) is one of the types of fresh fish that has been served by Unity College’s Dining Services since the College has become a Champion in the Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested® program.