by JANET MANDELSTAM
The numbers are formidable:
- 24,000 food transactions a day.
- 24 food outlets plus two food trucks.
- 350 full-time employees.
- 1,600 part-time student employees.
Restaurants, cafés, cafeterias, concession stands, catering—they are all under the purview of Rahul Shrivastav, executive director of Indiana University Dining. Feeding the university community is a big task, but Shrivastav looks beyond the numbers. “We’ve got the students’ nutrition in our hands,” he says. “We are nurturing minds, and we want to give them the best food possible.”
To Shrivastav, who came to IU in 2017, that means buying from local producers. “We plan menus from what the local farmers are planting,” he says. Connecting farmers to consumers is part of his plan, too. “The suppliers come on campus to talk to students, so the students know where their food is coming from.“
Fischer Farms is one example. The small, family-owned farm near Jasper, Indiana, supplies ground beef and other meat for IU Dining, and its farmers meet regularly with university chefs. Because the farm is local, transporting the meat to the university supports another of Shrivastav’s goals: sustainability. He tries to do that in other ways, too. “Cutting down food waste is important,” he says. “We have composting in all the dining halls, including compostable dinnerware.”
Shrivastav, 42, followed a circuitous route to his job at IU. He grew up in India, where he earned a diploma in hotel management. “I learned a lot about food and beverages there, then finished my degree in Sydney, Australia,” he says. With banquet and catering experience added to his resume, he was offered a job at a hotel in Orlando, Florida. It didn’t work out. “I landed in the U.S. in February 2001, and learned that I didn’t have the job,” he says. He went to work first at an airport restaurant, then at hotels in Chicago and Cleveland.
It was when he signed on as food operations manager at Penn State University that his career took a new turn. “Working with students, I found an energy that I hadn’t found before,” he says. He stayed 10 years.
Shrivastav lives in Bloomington with his wife, Sara, and their two children. He gets in a morning run along Griffy Lake or the B-Line Trail before heading to work, where he can often be found talking to students and staff in the dining halls.