The Keene State College Zorn Dining Commons was recently commended by the Environmental Protection Agency for its sustainability and food waste prevention.
According to a press release from the college, KSC is noted by the United States Department of Environmental Protection for significantly reducing its waste with initiatives such as the EPA’s “Food Recovery Challenge.”
The General Manager of KSC Dining Services, Josef Quirinale, shared that the food waste has been significantly reduced by using measures such as composting and creating initial awareness for those eating in the DC. The school’s dining services have also partnered with KSC’s Student Board of Directors and KSC R.O.C.K.S in order to prevent and recover food waste on campus sustainably.
Quirinale explained the food waste concern, which KSC is continuing to address in financial terms.
“The average cost of a pound of food that we serve in the dining commons is $1.78. So every person that walks through the dining commons on average wastes four ounces of food. We serve 6,000 meals a day. That’s 1,500 pounds of food waste – every day. So if we can raise awareness that that 1,500 pounds of food waste equates to well over $2,000 worth of food, then hopefully we’ll raise the consciousness and help students to realize that wasting that food is costing them money,” Quirinale explained.
Despite the amount of food waste, KSC has collected a large amount for both donation and composting, which has lead to their award with the EPA. According to information provided by Quirinale, in 2013 the college donated 2,100 pounds of food, mainly through Sodexo, the food provider for KSC’s dining services.
KSC also composted roughly 79,000 pounds of food waste. Although according to Quirinale, a majority of the waste collected for composting was “pre-plate waste” made up of stems, fruit peels and other material thrown out in the food preparation process, roughly 22,000 pounds of “post consumer” food waste was collected off plates for composting throughout June and July.
To reduce initial food waste, both Quirinale and KSC’s Student Board of Advisors worked together to concentrate on fighting food waste with awareness through on-campus campaigns, such as the “Just Ask” campaign.
Quirinale explained this campaign required DC employees to wear buttons saying, “Just Ask,” to remind and inform students that they could feel comfortable asking for samples of foods or changes in a pre-made meal to prevent students from taking and possibly wasting a large amount of food on their plate.
Non-traditional student representative of Student Assembly and member of the Student Board of Advisors for KSC Dining Kimberly Alberg further explained, “I do feel like the food waste is still a concern. I think that some students aren’t as aware as they could be. I think that students tend to put food on their plate and then not eat it for a variety of reasons. There was a big disconnect between Sodexo employees and students on our campus. The SBOA just kicked off a campaign called ‘Just Ask.’ We’re trying to help students understand that they can ask Sodexo workers for help with certain things like smaller portions or a variety of what is being offered to create more of a variety in their diet.”
The dining commons and the Student Board of Directors have also taken other awareness initiatives to prevent students from wasting food. One campaign involved having students throw their leftover food into trash cans, which would later be weighed to demonstrate how much food was being wasted throughout a given time period.
Another initiative involved the giant carrot decoration that was put on the stairway of the Zorn Dining Commons.
This is to remind students of a previous campaign where they were taught through information on napkin holder signs that it takes roughly 80 days to grow a carrot.
This is meant to make students think of all the foods they could potentially waste in one meal.
“What the carrot symbolizes is the fact that it takes a certain amount of time, between 80 and 90 days, to grow a carrot. It takes time to transport that carrot. It takes time to prepare that carrot. It takes time to cook that carrot, but it only takes a second to wipe it off your plate,” Quirinale said.
Although food waste is still a concern, even after the EPA award, Alberg noted, “I think it’s great that we won the award. I think that students are becoming more aware of the quantity that they put on their plates, which I think is good for them to not waste as much or take as much. It’s nice to see students taking less if they’re unsure of something that’s been offered.”
On discussing the best ways to fight food waste, “It [preventing food waste] is really up to them—I can’t stop students from taking more than they’re gonna eat. We’re doing everything we possibly can right now, but it’s up to the students to make the difference,” Quirinale concluded.
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