Nate Jackson is not employed by IUPUI, even though he reports to work there daily, and he manages a sprawling network of 14 food venues across campus plus a staggeringly large catering operation. Jackson's employer is Chartwells, a subsidiary of Compass Group North America, one of the largest food service management companies in the world.
Just how large is it? Food Management magazine ranks North America's food service contract management companies annually in"domestic top-line revenues." Compass Group sits at the top of the list for 2011, followed by Aramark and Sodexo, together considered the "Big Three" of the food service industry.
Therein lies the contradiction for Jackson, and by extension, IUPUI — who are on a fast track to make sustainability an institutional priority. Jackson and the powers-that-be at IUPUI have put into place a sustainability plan for the university that encompasses recycling, energy use and waste reduction, and a food service operation that emphasizes locally and ethically grown and produced food wherever possible.
Jackson was already a member of the "slow food" choir to begin with, and working for Chartwells (a subsidiary of Compass Group North America) offered an opportunity to put some of those beliefs into practice, particularly since Compass Group brands itself as a company that embraces sustainability.
Compass Group boasts front and center on its website a focus on encouraging "responsible and sustainable practices in our supply chain." That includes championing local family farmers and Fair Trade, reducing the use of antibiotics in chicken, turkey and pork, supporting sustainable agriculture and seafood purchasing policies, promoting farm animal welfare with 100 percent use of cage-free shell eggs and the elimination of artificial rBGH from milk and yogurt products.
Jackson has already put many of these practices into place — and being employed by a company that supports these policies made it that much easier. It's done with an eye on the bottom line, of course.
"So to work in a big food service organization like Chartwells, you have to really do a lot of soul-searching when you are a diehard about changing nutrition and changing the ethical values that food service is," Jackson concedes. "And I chose Chartwells, because Chartwells is a young company, and there's a lot of room, and there's a lot of open ears, when it comes to ethical food service. And I truly believe this: If there's a company that I could work for to help change internally, it's this company."
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