Dining and Hospitality Services hopes to minimize food waste

February 07, 2017

Sandy Fales

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     Every day, students living on and off campus eat at the Lodge, Roaring Fork, Clyde’s and Café 65. While UCCS offers diverse food options, not every student finishes the food, which is ultimately thrown away, left on their plates.

     According to Mark Hayes, director of Dining and Hospitality Services, the most food waste that occurs on campus is in residential dining. Hayes added that students and staff with meal plans are the most likely to waste food.

     This is due to the buffet-style food offered at the Lodge and Roaring Fork dining halls. People often take more than they eat, and the rest ends up in the compost bin, said Hayes.

     In 2016, the estimated total edible food waste in residential dining will be about 39,000 pounds, according to Hayes.

     This figure is based on 0.9 ounces of food waste per plate during the spring semester and 1.5 ounces of waste per plate, per meal, during the fall semester.

     According to Clare Thomas, Zero Waste coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, UCCS composted 277,895 pounds of waste in 2015.

     This number was generated based off billing data from Waste Management, the company who hauls the compost on campus to the UCCS-operated farm and greenhouse.

     These numbers encompass all compostable items, including food, cups, plates, napkins and to-go containers.

     The Office of Sustainability conducts random plate samplings in the Lodge twice a semester to measure the amount of edible food left on the plates of the first 100 students and staff during the sampling time and records it.

     “Food waste in residential (dining) is a really good number as a whole. This is most likely due to the education on the subject UCCS students receive on campus and through the Sustainability Office,” said Hayes.

     The Office of Sustainability works hard to promote eco-friendly, sustainable practices across campus.

     Efforts like the Take Back the Tap campaign, which got rid of plastic water bottles sold on campus, the Mount Trashmore display during spring semesters and the availability of reusable OZZI containers instead of compostable containers are included in these practices.

     The reusable containers are a good way to keep the compost-pound numbers low.

     Waste numbers in retail dining like Clyde’s and Café 65 are harder to determine, said Hayes.

     “People usually only purchase what they plan to consume at these retail locations. Students are not going to buy extra food just to throw it away,” says Hayes.

     These locations minimize waste by managing food production.

     At the end of each week, leftover baked goods and handmade items are donated in compliance with local health codes and laws to the Colorado Springs Food Rescue, said Hayes.

     According to Thomas, these items totaled 1,118 pounds as of September 2016. This number increased from 769 pounds in 2015.

     Left-over food items from The Lodge are not donated, even though donations are allowable by the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, said Hayes.

     “….small quantities, the overall quality after sitting out, and potential contact with customers” are all factors as to why UCCS does not donate the food not eaten in The Lodge and Roaring Fork facilities, he said.

     Hayes said that Catering Services does not compost waste because of the issue of hauling garbage to compost bins from catering events. According to Thomas, several obstacles make expansion of the composting program difficult, but it is an issue being examined.

     Consuming and wasting less are key factors to sustainability and in increasing or decreasing meal plan rates.

     “If we waste a lot of food on campus, it drives up meal plan rates,” said Hayes.