Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Food Waste Buffet

Ever wonder how much food is wasted at the Dining Halls? A team of students, including UCSC Dining student employee Jessica Campos, Student Sustainability Advisors in the colleges, and the Student Environmental Center, have been hosting “Waste Buffets” across the campus Dining Halls to find out.

With the help of other dining hall workers and volunteers, the team collects all of the food that students leave on their plate and do not eat.  Instead of sending that food to be composted right away, they measure how much is wasted and assembles full plates of food for display. This “Waste Buffet” is effective in showing people the potential that their wasted food has in being meals in hopes of discouraging food waste.

According to their results from last quarter, Crown/Merrill wasted 2.91 oz of food per person per day; Cowell/Stevenson wasted 3.66 oz of food per person per day; College 8/Oakes wasted 2.9 oz of food per person per day; and Porter wasted 2.14 oz of food per person per day. If you multiple those per-person amounts by the number of students who visit the dining halls each day throughout the year, it adds up to a whole lot of food waste!

We spoke with Jessica Campos to learn more about she became involved with this project. She has an active role in the sustainability movement and plans on incorporating that experience into her goals for future waste buffets. As an Environmental Studies and Biology major, Jessica began working at Mesa Verde gardens where she connected with the Live Oak community through helping with drip irrigation, dry composting, gardening, and translating for Spanish speakers.  She then moved onto work with Sprout Up, a non-profit where volunteers visit elementary schools for free environmental education. With Sprout Up, she was an education liaison which entailed teaching to specific communities. For example, organic food is the ideal choice for the environment and our health but it is not always financially feasible for everyone.  Jessica says that “you can’t just tell low income students to go organic,” but there are still ways to be more connected to the food systems without spending money.

To demonstrate the interconnectedness of our food systems, Jessica wants to collaborate more with the farm to have more produce pop-ups at the Waste Buffets.  She wants to show students that “the Dining Halls are the kitchen and the farms are OUR farms.” This will connect our relationship to our food with food waste. She is also planning on working on a large poster to compare food waste at Dining versus food waste nationwide.

Some tips on reducing food waste:
  • Try a sample
  • Eat smaller portions, then come back for seconds
  • Any feedback for making our dining halls more sustainable? Write it on comment cards for the Dining Hall​.
  • Take what you like; Eat what you take

Want to see more Waste Buffets on campus?  Email Jessica at jercampo [at] ucsc [dot] edu

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