With nearly 40% of all food in America being wasted each year while 77% of people want to learn how to live more sustainably but many don't know where to start, Chartwells Higher Education and its national sustainability director Monalisa Prasad have outlined four ways to increase sustainability and reduce food waste with examples from Chartwells operations in colleges and universities across the country...
Start a composting program that diverts food waste to grow new produce. The Chartwells team at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio has created a robust composting program in partnership with a local farm. Twice a week, BGSU Dining sends several pounds of food scraps to the farm, which is then used to grow new produce in a circular production cycle. Since the program's inception eight years ago, BGSU has composted nearly 330,000 pounds of food waste.
Create partnerships to deliver leftover meal boxes. Before winter break when dining operations are typically closed, Wichita State University (WSU) Dining in Kansas partnered with WSU's Campus Assessment Response Evaluation (CARE) team to get meals to students that were staying on campus during break. Supporting the community and reducing food waste at the same time, WSU Dining and WSU Care prepared, packed, and delivered 68 meal boxes on the last day of operation, saving several pounds of food from being discarded.
Reduce reliance on single-use plastics. The dining team at American University (AU) in Washington DC recently introduced reusable OZZI containers into its food service program to help support the university's goal of becoming a zero-waste campus by 2030. Before switching to OZZI containers, AU's dining halls served about 2,000 meals in takeout containers, accounting for roughly 64,000 boxes yearly. With the new OZZI containers, AU Dining can divert over 2,500 pounds of landfill waste by switching from single-use plastics to reusable containers.
Host an educational cooking demonstration on reducing food waste. Chef Dominic Zarletti at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania hosted a Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Dinner featuring six gourmet meals, all made from food that would have otherwise gone to waste. A portion from every course was used in the main entree—the tail-end bisque—to demonstrate how food scraps can be reimagined throughout the cooking process. Chef Dominic and other local experts talked also about the environmental costs of producing food waste and shared the custom menu as one way guests can reduce their own food waste at home.
"Seeing the unique and innovative ways our campus chefs and dining teams are working to reduce food waste on campuses nationwide is something I'm truly proud of," said Prasad. "Not only are they directly addressing food waste in day-to-day operations, but they're also creating partnerships, educating, and spreading awareness outside of the dining halls so the broader communities we serve can join in the fight against food waste."
Go here to learn more about Stop Food Waste Day.