suny cortland volunteer delivery Associates Services Corp., SUNY-Cortland
Student volunteers on their way to deliver leftover food from SUNY-Cortland dining outlets to the local Loaves & Fishes food recovery organization, which will use it to serve area needy.

SUNY Cortland goes to the max to minimize waste

From food donation to trayless dining, composting and recycling, the university goes all out to reduce what goes into landfills.

At the end of each day, food exits the confines of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland and heads for the local Loaves & Fishes collection center for dispensing to those in need in the surrounding community. The food is leftovers collected by the onsite Dunkin’ Donuts staff and delivered by members of various student clubs such as Sociology and Anthropology and NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group).

Loaves & Fishes is a local program of hospitality and food, now in its 34th year, that currently serves more than a hundred meals a day to the community. Last fall, SUNY Cortland dining donated just over $4,000 in leftovers to Loaves & Fishes, or an average of about $38 per day.

“The dining managers’ goal is to bring in enough food to meet our customer needs, but not too much, so we don’t waste food,” Terry Baker, director of dining services, said in a release. “It’s an unfortunate fact that hundreds of tons of food are thrown out on college campuses each year. But I am encouraged that dining’s sustainability programs and donations to Loaves & Fishes will continue to reduce our impact on the environment. We want to give back and help our local community whenever it is possible.”

The food donation program is just one of the initiatives initiated by the Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC), which manages dining and other support services on the SUNY Cortland campus. The dining arm also composts food, recycles fryer waste oil—a local farmer collects and uses it as biofuel for his farm equipment, vehicle and home heater—and utilizes measurement equipment from the LeanPath organization to identify areas where food waste can be reduced.

SUNY Cortland dining venues have been trayless for five years, and the two major dining outlets (Neubig and the Bistro) both use a pulper to process all food waste scraps, while all food waste generated by the central production operation is composed and ASC recycles all eligible plastic and metal containers used in its food production facilities.

Foam cups at the Dunkin Donuts unit and plastic bags at the Subway unit have been history since 2010, and increased fountain beverage service in the dining units has reduced bottled beverage sales by more than a third.

Energy usage has been made more efficient with a series of moves such as the installation of new evaporator controls in large walk-in coolers, which saves up to 40 percent of the energy previously used to power fans and defrosting operations; the revising of operating hours to reduce energy usage during low customer traffic periods in various dining locations; the subbing in of more energy efficient beverage vending machines that go dormant after a period of non-use; and the conversion of electric boilers and pizza oven units into more energy-efficient gas-powered ones.

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