Spotlight Casey Crane

Q&A with Casey Crane, Culinary Services Purchasing and Sustainability Manager

Casey Crane, Culinary Services Purchasing and Sustainability Manager

We’re thrilled to welcome Casey Crane, to Kent State University community! Casey is passionate about sustainability, local food systems, and connecting with students, faculty, and staff.

What sparked your interest in sustainability, food systems, and purchasing?
For the first part of my childhood my family and I lived in a small house in the back of an old estate where my mother worked in the greenhouse. I spent hours every day learning how to care for seedlings, how much water and nutrients plants need to thrive, and feeling the empowerment that comes with taking something that you grew from dirt and turning it into flavorful and vibrant dishes that spark instant joy and comfort. It was here I first began to understand how we are really connected to our food and in turn, our environment.

What sparked your interest in sustainability in both your professional and/or personal life?
I truly believe that healthful food should be a right for all and not a privilege afforded to some. Food that is good for both people and the planet should be accessible, sustainable, and affordable and I am committed to continuing the work to support efforts in making it so.

What is your favorite part of your position?
Connecting with people and making an impact.

What are your favorite accomplishments or projects you have worked on so far?
At my previous university I was a proud, major contributor to our Campus Sustainability Action Plan, a comprehensive campus wide plan which included targets and actions to transition to low waste kitchens, expand plant-forward options, and increase student engagement and education around sustainability work. I also took great enjoyment in working with our campus and community farms. In 2020 I received the Husky Green Award for my efforts to divert from the waste stream over $60,000 in food leftover as a result of COVID shutdowns. Since coming to Kent State University I have had the honor of working with Kim Rufra to plan and support the Kent State Haymaker’s Farmer’s Market and am looking forward to further expanding those efforts in the spring.

How does sustainability manifest itself in what you do at Kent State University?
Sustainability is a part of almost all my conversations. A few examples include: When I review new companies to consider as vendors I often request environmental impact reports. I encourage new vendors to donate excess product to our pantries and campus efforts in the fight against food insecurity. I am also constantly looking for opportunities to bring on plant-based and local products to reduce our carbon footprint.

What do you want the people of Kent State to know about you and your position as Purchasing and Sustainability Manager with Culinary Services (or any other roles you have)?
I truly believe that every choice matters, and every choice makes an impact. Both myself and Culinary Services have a responsibility to be good stewards for our students and our community. Product selections alone can affect to our carbon footprint and waste stream contributions. How many delivery trucks we allow on campus, requesting to receive electronic invoices rather than paper invoices from vendors, choosing to spend money with environmentally thoughtful companies are just a few of the multitude of choices we in culinary services can make to impact sustainability and climate change.

What opportunities are available for students, faculty and staff to collaborations with you?
We are always looking for ways to engage with students on not only our initiatives but also student projects and student groups because I believe campus can be a living lab. If you are interested in what we do or want to share and discuss what you are doing, please reach out!

How can students, faculty, and staff connect with you?
Reach out any time! I love having conversations around shared goals for sustainability!  Email me at ccrane6@kent.edu

Can you tell us more about how you and/or Culinary Services is advancing sustainability?
We are working on a variety of projects, but I can name at least a few here. While I’m just starting to get settled in this position, we are already making positive strides. We have added a second Grind2Energy machine in Eastway which takes food waste and food scraps and runs them through a grinder and anaerobic digester. We already have a Grind2Energy machine in place at DI. The process and resulting product is then used to generate energy, fuel, and nutrient rich compost which are re-introduced to the market in a variety of ways. Additionally, we have loved working on the Farmer’s Market project and are looking forward to further enhancing that as well as bringing more local products into our operations. We are also working on enhancing and reimplementing our reusable container program.

What would people be surprised to learn or know? 
I was a chef for almost 15 years before I transitioned to administrative roles and the kitchen is one my favorite places to be. I’m also incredibly passionate about and study in my free time restorative, regenerative agriculture and permaculture.

Anything else you’d like to add/tell think is important to mention?
Sustainability is truly multifaceted. For something to be sustainable it needs to not only be environmentally sustainable, but also socially and economically sustainable. For we as a society to come to reach true sustainability it needs to be so for people, plant and the economy so we can continue our efforts long into the future.

Thank you Casey!

Kent State Culinary Services