Faces of Sustainability: Jessica Wallace
When Jessica Wallace stumbled into catering “purely by accident” 20 years ago, she never imagined she would rise to the position of Catering Director at a top 25 university. Wallace entered the catering industry as a sales representative for a local event/catering company, but as time went on, she found herself more and more involved in the food-side of the company.
Before long, she was the wedding coordinator of International Home Furnishings Club, a position that sent her around the nation to cater events. It was during this time that catering became her passion. Wallace joined the Wake Forest University branch of ARAMARK as catering director two years ago where she has helped pioneer new sustainability initiatives for the university’s catering department.
Such initiatives include a waste-reduced box lunch called a “basket lunch.” A reusable basket with a cloth napkin substitutes for the typical cardboard box and paper wrappings of picnic lunches. The napkins and baskets are then collected and reused.
ARAMARK has also made strides to cut down on water bottle waste at catering events. Water stations full of fruit infused water can be included at a buffet or picnic venue in lieu of bottled water. When bottled water is requested by clients, the Posh Plate Catering team provides PRIMO water in bio-compostable bottles.
The no-bottle option was featured at the first-year-student orientation picnic site at Reynolda Gardens. Attendees at the low-waste event were encouraged to reuse cups as they walked from water station to water station along the path to Reynolda Gardens. The actual meal featured all local produce and chicken and even the centerpieces were made of fruit and were dismantled to be consumed later.
After the student-mentor picnic, students were instructed to sort food waste from paper and plastic waste. This food waste was then dehydrated in the university’s new food dehydrator to reduce the impact on local landfills.
Wallace emphasized the importance of sustainable options in today’s catering business. The new programs are all part of the ARAMARK “Green Thread” commitment to develop and implement innovative and responsible solutions that reduce the waste stream and lead to a more sustainable lifestyle.
“We want to be able to offer more sustainable choices for our clients at little to no additional cost,” Wallace said. “We also work to educate our staff and our customers to think and plan events responsibly by giving them suggestions that they normally would not have thought of.”
Outside the workplace, Wallace has a personal commitment to buying as many local products as possible for use in her kitchen. She also recycles and encourages others to do so too.
By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern