Sustainable Food Program: Sustainable Food Recovery

Reducing the amount of food wasted is among the most important initiatives of the Sustainable Food Program. The resulting savings is reinvested into other sustainable initiatives, including the purchase of more sustainably produced food.

One of our many sustainability initiatives includes the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign created in 2008. We moved the compost bins to the front of the tray returns to raise awareness about food waste. Students then had to scrape their own plates and were able to see firsthand how much food was wasted in total by the dining hall residents. Previously, Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) employees would scrape plates in the dish room, which is obscured from the students’ view. We have also implemented common food waste reduction measures such as the voluntary trayless program, down-sizing plates and controlling portion sizes where appropriate.

With respect to pre-consumer food waste, the most important recent step we have taken is to invest in food waste reduction technology, which identifies where, why and by whom food waste is being generated.

But the more interesting work we’re doing is through partnerships with students, with whom we’re collaborating on user-centered design processes for better understanding why students generate waste, and then prototyping design solutions to reduce it. We also have great success in creating opportunities for student volunteers to raise awareness amongst their peers about food waste.

Lastly, our partnership with Stanford Project for Hunger (SPOON) has been invaluable in that nearly 60,000 meals have been diverted from our compost bins to people in need. Although our first priority is to reduce waste in the first place, SPOON is able to elevate much of the waste we do generate to the highest use possible—feeding the hungry.

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