UCLouvain is increasing its commitment to the food sector. It is a direct stakeholder, involved via the University Restaurants as well as the University Farms. The university community has a wide range of skills that can be mobilised, an aware student body, concrete tools suitable for testing different feeding trajectories, and a unique position in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. These are all advantages that UCLouvain intends to press to increase the positive impact of the food produced and consumed in and around its seven locations.
Researchers and students from many disciplines study the growth of vegetables, fruits, and berries in accordance with organic farming principles and the agroecology framework on three hectares at the edge of the Louvain-la-Neuve campus. Produce from the Lauzelle farm regularly supplies the University Restaurants and the Louvain House.
A space for experimentation, the farm has pursued a three-part mission since 2017: to serve as a medium for teaching and research, but also as a privileged interface with society and market gardeners for whom the Lauzelle farm represents a place of meeting, exchange, and reference.
Nearly 2,000 customers – students, members of staff, and visitors – visit UCLouvain’s four restaurants and two sandwich bars each day. That’s more than 207,000 people per year. Everyone is offered a variety of dishes, soups, salads, and sandwiches.
A menu that leans more and more towards sustainability. Particularly dynamic, the University Restaurants Service has implemented a range of responses, both large and small:
- Le plat malin : Balanced, inexpensive, vegetarian on Tuesday and Thursday, the “smart meal” is our best seller. Students, who can order it at a set price of €3.35 (€5.25 for UCLouvain staff and €7.10 for visitors), make up 65% of orders. A number that is increasing all the time.
- Vegetarian offerings : In addition to the twice-weekly vegetarian “smart meal”, a dish based on vegetables, cereals, or legumes is offered daily, as are certain soups, a pasta sauce, and a vegetable steam-table and salad bar.
- Vegan sandwiches : Of the sandwiches sold in the sandwich shops 13% are vegan and 30% are vegetarian.
- Product sourcing : The choice of ingredients takes into account the origin of the foodstuffs and their certification. Fish, for example, are all from MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) and ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) certified sustainable fisheries. Some soups are also made from certified organic vegetables from the Lauzelle farm.
- Transparancy : Signage alerts University Restaurants customers to vegetarian options. This approach is complimented by sheets produced by the spin-off You Meal, which allot dishes a score for their nutritional values and environmental impacts.
- Food transport : All University restaurants share a single purchasing platform, and 90% of their products are delivered daily to Louvain-la-Neuve, thus minimising transport and maximising efficiency.
- Reduced plastic use : Single-use plastic cups, mugs, spoons, and bowls have been replaced by glass or cardboard.
- Reduction of food waste during production : A computerised system manages the entire preparation process so that production waste is practically zero. Recipe weights are calculated as accurately as possible. Orders are programmed using a just-in-time order and the number of preparations made in the kitchen respects the proportions of dishes planned. There is nearly no surplus.
- Minimising food waste : Smart sorting bins have been installed in all University Restaurants to raise awareness among users. Visual and practical, they display the weight of the waste deposited there. Customers therefore know, in real time, their personal contribution to the overall quantity of waste produced.
Green Deal signatory
UCLouvain is one of the 330 Walloon Region signatories to the Green Deal sustainable canteens agreement, a formal commitment to the global voluntary movement to increase the sustainable aspect of the meals offered. There are four focus areas: encouraging the consumption of local and seasonal fair-trade ingredients produced in ways that respect the environment and animals; the preparation of healthy, balanced, tasty meals; the reduction of waste food and other waste; and social inclusion. The University aims to have gone further before the Green Deal’s 2022 deadline, in particular in terms of waste food and other waste. Plastic is therefore gradually disappearing; organic sorting is being introduced in the kitchen; and food scraps are being measured to make visitors to University Restaurants aware of their contribution to the weight of our garbage cans.
More than 240 annual events and some 650 deliveries…the University’s Ufresh catering servie, a University Restaurants service, is available at the Louvain-la-Neuve, Brussels, Mons, and Woluwe campuses. Whether for a seminar, a meeting, a conference or a class dinner, sustainability is at the heart of the project: local, organic, or fair-trade products are favoured, as are porcelain table services. In the case of single-use containers, cardboard and compostable plastic are favoured. Tablecloths and napkins are made from FSC-certified cellulose wadding.
Behind Bouger Manger is a group of six partners actively promoting health within the university community.
- Univers Santé;
- The Sport service;
- The University Restaurants U;
- The CPPT (Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work);
- The Students Support Service health team;
- the students deleguate.
Tips, guidance, activities, recipe ideas…Manger Bouger is a platform at the service of students. The goal is to help them adopt a healthy, active lifestyle. A guide has been published and a newsletter provides useful information every quarter.
Flowing from the source
Twenty-seven water fountains providing city water are available in auditoria across UCLouvain campuses. This approach is a response to student demand, combining environmental and health considerations. Water fountains connected to the city water supply can also be found in 140 shared areas in the University’s administrative offices.
Vents du Sud solidarity grocery store in LLN
A true social enterprise, the solidarity grocery store Les Vents du Sud in Louvain-la-Neuve offers food, cleaning, and personal hygiene products to vulnerable people at lower cost. Unlike at food banks, beneficiaries pay 50% of the traditional market price for the items they choose. Requiring a payment is one way to promote empowerment of people through autonomy and accountability for their purchases.
Who shops here? People sent by the CPAS in Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve or the UCLouvain Student Support Service. These two services also contribute up to 50% of the purchase price.
A social venue, the Vents du Sud grocery store also organises awareness workshops promoting citizenship, healthy and balanced food, household budget management, waste management, etc. The Centre Placet coordinates this project in partnership with students from kots-à-projets (theme-based student accommodation), the municipality, the CPAS, UCLouvain, a team of volunteers from the Red Cross, and the non-profit organisation Apides. A collaboration with AlimenTerre also encourages local consumption via baskets of fresh and seasonal products.
Free Alma grocery in Woluwe
Launched in 2019, this social-enterprise grocery store is an initiative of the Association pour la solidarité étudiante en Belgique (ASEB) with the support of HE Vinci, UCLouvain Brussels, and EPHEC. By offering unsold products, the store reduces waste and promotes environmentally responsible consumption. Free Alma also complements the social assistance measures put in place by the three higher education institutions by allowing those who need it to eat at a lower cost.
The Free Alma social grocery store is accessible to all students enrolled in higher education at the Brussels-Woluwe campus; no social criteria are required. Every Tuesday afternoon between 120 and 135 people visit the store: between eighty and ninety during study weeks, and as many as 150 (the store’s maximum occupancy) at other times.
Donations are sometimes exclusively dedicated to the purchase of second-hand books. These sustain the solidarity library, where everyone can drop off or pick up several books for free.
Reservation via the grocery store’s Facebook page
Poll’n cooperative grocery
The Poll’n cooperative grocery store offers locals and students organic and local products at affordable prices. How? Thanks to the involvement of its members. Being a Poll’n customer means being a collaborator, that is to say, devoting three hours of your time per month to managing the store, a method proven to drastically reduce overhead. The products are therefore sold at a single, fixed margin of 20%, but they also and above all create social ties and stimulate civic energy. A true stakeholder in the project, each employee also has the right to vote at a general meeting, making each member simultaneously the store’s owner, customer, and manager.
Located on the 3rd floor of the Aula Magna, Louvain House is more than a dining space for the University community. It is a place for meetings, discoveries, and multidisciplinary activities. Every weekday lunchtime the restaurant is open to UCLouvain staff members, alumni, and their guests.
The cooking features seasonal organic vegetables, fruits, and berries from the University’s Lauzelle farm. This partnership makes it possible to sell Lauzelle products without competing with local vegetable production. Cooked creatively at Louvain House, these products are the basis for dishes offered à la carte or served at events such as conferences, seminars, retreats, and the Louvain House Meetings which take place ten times a year.
A sustainability approach is also taken to food waste. The menu is deliberately limited, quantities are managed in part thanks to reservations, and disposable plastic tableware is completely non-existent. A coherent approach for a place where links are forged.