Taking a Bite Out of Food Waste

The Murray Aikins Dining Hall was one of the first in the nation to offer tray-less dining, which drastically reduced food waste as individuals couldn’t carry the same volume of food without a tray. In addition, the dining hall offers small portion sizes and encourages diners to ask for samples before taking a meal. Nevertheless, according to a 2017 study, 400 pounds of edible food come through the dish return in Skidmore’s Murray-Aikins Dining Hall every day, adding up to about 43,000 pounds of food waste per semester. This included full slices of pizza, burritos with only a lone bite missing, and full trays of fries. Food waste is a social and environmental problem. Tons of wholesome, edible food is lost in transportation, storage, and overproduction, yet over 45 million Americans are food-insecure, including 15 million children. Food waste buried in landfills generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas, during decomposition. A few student clubs- Feedmore, the Student Government Sustainability Commission, and Environmental Action Club- have taken different routes to address food waste.

Since the start of the Spring 2018 semester, 566 lbs. of surplus food have been donated from the dining hall to local soup kitchens with the help of Feedmore. The Campus Kitchen Project, a national organization devoted to cultivating relationships between campuses and communities to redistribute food, indicates that 40% of food is wasted in the US, meanwhile 1 in 6 Americans do not know where their next meal is coming from. Feedmore’s mission is to alleviate hunger in the community by collecting and transporting surplus food from the dining hall to local soup kitchens. Feedmore has donated over 3,500 pounds of food since it first launched in 2014.

Zoe Pagliaro '20 collects food waste at an audit in Murray Aikins Dining Hall.

This fall, the Student Government Association Sustainability Commission (SuCo) signed on to the to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge. The national program is a platform for organizations to track and improve their food waste management practices. In November, SuCo co-hosted a Zero Waste Theme Dinner with Environmental Action Club with a promotional video, signage, and volunteers posted in the dining hall to weigh food waste. The event yielded about 50% less post-consumer food waste compared to the spring 2017 study. The SuCo students concluded the fall semester with a food waste audit that suggested a 11% reduction in food waste than the preliminary study at the semester’s start.  Zoe Pagliaro (Class of 2020) says, “This project was so important because although 11% doesn’t seem like a lot, that’s over 8,000 pounds of food waste a year. However, what I think is even more important is that through this project we created behavior changes in a lot of students that will help to continue to decrease food waste even after this project ends.”

Andy Rhodes '20 shows off a "clean plate" with zero food waste.

The Environmental Action Club (EAC) is helping composting practices take root by collecting vegetable waste from Emily’s Garden, the dining station that includes a salad bar and specializes in vegetarian and vegan menu items. Ruth Ferree, EAC co-president and Class of 2018, initiated the project in the fall, and the club has collected about 100 lbs of veggie scraps since October.

Students are encouraged to volunteer with Feedmore on Sunday and Wednesday evenings at 7pm in the test kitchen, and may contact Greta Binzen ’19 at mbinzen@skidmore.edu for more information. The SGA Sustainability Commission welcomes students interested in tackling projects through the arm of student government, email Zoe Pagliaro ’20 at zpagliaro@skidmore.edu. Students interested in working on environmental projects, such as composting or edible landscaping, with Environmental Action Club can contact Ruth Ferree ’18 at rferree@skidmore.edu or follow EAC on SkidSync.

The dish return in Murray Aikins Dining Hall.

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