Humboldt State University

People on the Ground: Staff Profiles

Ron Rudebock
Director, Dining Services

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became famous by teaching his trademarked Transcendental Meditation technique and befriending pop icons like The Beatles, Mia Farrow and the folk singer Donovan. According to Ron Rudebock, director of dining services, the Indian holy man is also partially responsible for bringing vegetarian dining to Humboldt State.

"When he visited Humboldt State in the '70s there were like 3,000 followers that came with him," Rudebock recalls. "He was lecturing for the summer and all the meals for the month he was here were vegetarian. His followers recommended some dishes to us and we came up with some on our own. So, we took some of those ideas and just translated them into the menu once the school year started."

From such auspicious beginnings did Humboldt State's commitment to vegetarian dining and sustainable operations originate. It's a commitment that Rudebock takes seriously and his dedication shows. Recently, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals named Humboldt State the second most vegetarian-friendly campus in the nation.

"Our success or failure is determined by how close we listen to the students and how closely we respond to what they want," he says. "If I'm doing my job correctly then I'm really listening to the students and responding to their wishes. Almost everything we've changed to be more sustainable is driven by student requests. They're the ones who help educate us and give us direction."

The direction provided by the students has led Dining Services to offer an abundance of local and organic products including vegetables and fruits from area farms in addition to Humboldt County grass-fed beef. In coordination with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Dining Services gets between 50 and 100 percent of its produce from local farms during the growing season. Products from local companies such as Los Bagels, Brio Breadworks and The Tofu Shop are also made available at the various campus eateries. It's these types of options that give students a chance to explore new tastes, support local businesses and create a healthier diet.

"The environment of Humboldt State through peer education and availability makes eating organic and healthy more of an option," Rudebock says. "We do a survey at the beginning of every year and we ask people about their dietary preferences; if they're vegetarians or meat eaters. Usually, less than 10 percent will say they're vegetarian on the survey. By the end of the school year, about 20 to 25 percent will identify themselves as vegetarian. We can see it through the volume of vegetarian dishes we serve and how popular they become."

Dining Services has taken other steps to reduce waste and conserve energy. Students use to-go containers made of plastic resins that help reduce waste and can be washed and reused year after year. Students also receive a free mug from Dining Services to further eliminate waste and disposable to-go containers are discouraged. New compressors mean that display refrigeration units run more efficiently and the units are now lit with energy-saving LED lights. Additionally, a new lighting timer will conserve energy in the University's main dining hall.

"We try to be aware of what we can do better for our customers by selecting Energy Star rated appliances and responding to what the students want," he says. "It's always a challenge, but we look forward to offering students more local and organic options and continuing to meet their needs."