Jon Biltucci

UCSD Staff Member | Program Manager, Rooted in Flavor

How did the idea for Rooted in Flavor come about?

Rooted in Flavor was inspired by the national Menus of Change® initiative and similar programs throughout the UC System. Housing, Dining and Hospitality (HDH) has been a member of the Menus of Change collective for more than four years.

Given the positive impact that implementing the principles of Menus of Change had already had on the food we serve, we decided that now was a good time to really dial in on a few key goals to further guide our efforts. We came up with a set of initial goals, with a long-term plan to evaluate and add new goals on an annual basis.

We decided that our initial approach would be to work to reduce the amount of beef that we serve, while increasing seafood, whole grains and wellness items on our menus. Every member of our team had a voice in the process. We collectively make changes to our menus, recipes, supply chains, systems and messaging that will support this direction.

How would you describe your role?

My role has been to act as a project manager and liaison between the different groups working on this program, while ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to have their voice heard and their concerns addressed. As we all have very different priorities and ideas, we identified the need to create forums and subcommittees where everyone’s voice could be heard, which enables us to make collective decisions. My role has been to act as the central voice of the project in its infancy and ensure that, once the group makes decisions, we continue to move forward without losing momentum.

Give us an idea of how much the menu options have changed since last academic year. What changes stand out most to you?

We have many new and exciting options at our restaurants this year. We’re focusing on bringing local and sustainable seafood to more of our stations, and making plant-forward options a focus of every station. We’re paring down some of the beef offerings that we have, including a beefless Monday initiative. To support this, we’re introducing new and exciting options on Mondays, such as shrimp burritos, potato soyrizo tacos and black bean rajas burgers. Our goal is to make Mondays about trying something new and exciting, not about missing the beef.

Additionally, we’ve made changes to our pricing structure and the presentation of several of our Rooted in Flavor dishes. This makes them more accessible, and provides more value to students and the campus community.

I’m most excited about one of our most subtle changes: making artisan, handmade pizza dough at OceanView out of whole-grain flour. It’s small changes like this that will have a huge impact for us.

What has been the impact of this program on staff, so far?

With any large rollout, having the entire team on board is key. In our education and training about this program, we’ve chosen to highlight the “why” — for example, why we should decrease beef or the impacts of whole grains on health. Our team is excited to embrace the program, and have their voices heard through our trainings and discussions.

What was most challenging about developing this program? How did you and your team overcome that challenge?

The most challenging part was knowing where to start and getting everyone to buy into our initial set of goals. We leaned on the student community to find out what they’d be interested in trying and what they’d like to keep the way it is. We conducted more than a dozen tastings, surveys and tabling events during spring quarter to capture this feedback. It’s something we plan to continue.

How did you and your team break the rollout of this program down into small, achievable steps, so the work wouldn’t become overwhelming?

We formed six subcommittees that each worked on different areas: menus, recipes, procurement, systems, training and engagement. It was my role to ensure that each group had the resources it needed to meet its milestones. Each group had a chair, and the chairs would meet on a biweekly basis to collaborate and make sure that each aspect of the program was in harmony with everything else.

What have you learned from your involvement in Rooted in Flavor? What are you still learning?

I’ve learned that there is a huge interest from our student community, especially when it comes to food sustainability. I’m excited to learn more from our students as we continue our efforts.

What emerging trends in sustainable food initiatives inspire you?

There’s so much good stuff out there! Something we’re excited about doing is urban farming here at UC San Diego. We’re opening our second aeroponic tower farm at Canyon Vista this fall. We already have one at 64 Degrees, and we’re excited to grow our own produce a few feet away from where it’s served.

Do you have any favorite books or films about food or food sustainability?

I would highly recommend the Eat-Lancet Commission on food sustainability. It’s a scientific report highlighting the changes we need to make to our diets to accommodate a growing population to avoid critical climate change impacts.

Celebrate Ride Share Week TODAY!!!

Try carpooling, vanpooling or taking transit to support National Rideshare Week.

Free Ride Day, Wednesday, Oct. 2 (TODAY): Ride free on any fixed route, like the Trolley, bus or COASTER.

With the Waze Carpool app, all carpool trips starting or ending in San Diego County during Rideshare Week cost $1. Learn how to get started.

Enjoy 20% off two Lyft Shared rides during Rideshare Week with promo code SDRSW19.

Purchase discounted Lyft FLEX Shared credit packages for use during Rideshare Week, and the rest of Fall Quarter 2019.

Learn more

Courtesy of UC San Diego Transportation Services

2019 Plastic Free July Exhibit at Geisel Library

This month, in honor of Plastic Free July, the Library’s Sustainability Committee has created a single-use plastic exhibit in Geisel 2 East. Go check it out anytime this month and find out more about the exhibit here!

Additionally, the Library’s Sustainability Committee invites you to sign up for the challenge. Plastic Free July started in 2011 in Australia, and it has quickly become a global movement.  Help make a difference!

Confetti = Litter

The past few weeks, Giesel has been surrounded by graduating seniors trying to snap an iconic portrait – we’ve all seen them. They’re a great way to commemorate the accomplishment of graduating college! But, many people have also noticed the leftover glitter dotting the grasses on the 3rd floor of Giesel and around campus.

Although confetti-throwing pictures may be entirely instagram worthy (and show how you feel now that graduation is FINALLY here), confetti comes with a dark side. Confetti litter can have detrimental impacts on our local environment because it runs into our waterways and can also confuse wildlife that might think the colorful pieces are food.

Here are some confetti alternatives to use this graduation season:

  1. Flower petals: Flower or rose petal confetti is a great alternative to paper or plastic confetti that will make for some absolutely gorgeous grad photos while also keeping our campus clean.
  2. Plant or bird seeds: Seeds are an eco-friendly option that can either lead to more flowers being planted or provide a snack for local birds.
  3. Vanishing confetti: You can take the DIY route by creating this vanishing confetti that disappears when it gets wet.

When you’re taking grad photos this year, remember that confetti is litter and although it might make for one or two fun pictures, it’s negative effects remain in our local environment for much longer than the couples of minutes it takes to make a photograph.

UC president recognizes students for outstanding leadership!

UC San Diego student, Enid Partika (pictured left), was recently honored with the annual President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership. Partika, a fourth-year environmental chemistry major, has been building an anaerobic digester, which works to turn food waste into fertilizer and biogas, on campus in partnership with Roger’s Community Garden. Over the course of the academic year, her team collected more than 41,000 pounds of food waste, succeeding in sequestering the equivalent of 6,637 pounds of carbon dioxide!

Read more about the award here:

Read more about her work with the anaerobic digester and her recent recognition for the Lemelson-MIT Prize for novel technology here:

UC San Diego averts 1.4 Million Pounds of Greenhouse Gas Emissions during the Cool Campus Challenge

By Sara McKinstry, Campus Sustainability Manager

UC San Diego announced its top point-earning individual, team and residential college for the April 2019 Cool Campus Challenge at its annual sustainability awards ceremony held May 9 at The Loft. 

The University of California’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative and the Center for Sustainable Energy sponsored the Cool Campus Challenge. During the four-week online competition, students, faculty and staff from every UC campus and the Office of the President logged actions that they were taking to reduce their carbon footprint, including things like washing laundry in cold water, going meatless at mealtime, shutting fume hood sashes when not in use, biking, walking and taking transit. 

Left to right: Allyson Long (representing team winner Scripps Institution of Oceanography), individual winner Sarah Ji ’19, and Vanessa Le (representing college winner Eleanor Roosevelt College). Photo by Rhett Miller, UC San Diego.

More than 22,000 students, faculty and staff from all UC campuses and locations participated in the challenge. UC Berkeley won the competition based on total points, followed closely by UCLA and UC Irvine, the first winner in 2015. UC Merced had the highest overall participation rate. At UC San Diego, more than 1,250 students, staff and faculty, including the Preuss School, joined in the fun, preventing nearly 1.4 million pounds of greenhouse gases emissions, the equivalent of removing 135 passenger vehicles from roadways for one year. Tritons came in seventh place overall.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Eleanor Roosevelt College team leaders found that uniting their peers in a fun spirit of competition helped reinforce their existing sustainable behaviors. “I think when SIO peers started seeing how even small actions made an impact on the challenge, it became an easy and all-encompassing spirited competition,” said Allyson Long, SIO Safety and Sustainability Coordinator. “Really, most people were doing these things already, so it was a matter of getting into the team spirit and collaborating as a group, which ultimately proved victorious.” Vanessa Le, ERC Student Council Sustainability Advocate and ERC Cool Campus Challenge team lead organizer, expressed a similar sentiment. “Our victory in the Cool Campus Challenge sets ERC on the right path to UC San Diego’s zero waste and carbon neutral goals. We could not have done it without the collaboration of ERC council members, residents and students.” 

The larger impact of the Cool Campus Challenge is what excited Long, Le and Ji most about being involved. “I think working towards UC-wide, statewide and nationwide change is the most important thing to do, and showing that individuals truly care about and support sustainable practices is the first step to tackling the main contributors to climate change, like corporations and big institutions like the UC system,” Ji said. 

“The challenge for all of us now is to keep taking action even though the competition has ended,” said Michelle Perez, UC San Diego’s Interim Director of Sustainability and Carbon Neutrality. “The climate we depend on is now depending on us. So let’s keep up the great actions we saw Tritons taking during the Cool Campus Challenge.”