Resolving Food Waste on Campus

posted in: Sustainability | 0

By Kate Columbus, Outreach Intern, UCSB Sustainability

Have you ever thought about living in a trash-less world? The University of California system aims to make that dream a reality with its zero waste by 2020 goal. The UC system has already made great progress towards this goal by diverting 69 percent of its waste from landfills, but there is still work to do.

Cue in #MyLastTrash: this catchy hashtag and campaign slogan is part of a UC wide campaign to get the whole UC community involved in reducing their waste. Whether it is reducing food waste by taking smaller portions or bringing reusable bags to grocery stores, #MyLastTrash encourages the UC system to be more aware of how their personal waste impacts the environment. Food waste is this quarter’s theme for #MyLastTrash’s, and UCSB has several programs on campus focused on food waste.

UCSB Residential Dining is constantly thinking about how they can reduce food waste. In 2009, all the dining halls went tray-less, which means that students could only grab as much food as they could carry. This reduced plate waste (waste left on customers’ plate) by 50%, says Danielle Kemp, UCSB Residential Dining Services’ Dietitian. Not only did waste decrease from six ounces to three ounces per plate, but the switch to tray-less dining resulted in a 100,000-gallon reduction in annual water use, because the dining commons no longer needed water to clean trays. UCSB Residential Dining also helps divert food waste from landfills by composting 100% of pre- and post-consumer food waste.

UCSB Residential Dining Commons have also been designed to reduce food waste. Dining commons have “platform” style dining, which means cooks are able to execute batch cooking. “With the cooks performing their cooking duties in front of the customer, our staff is better able to adjust batch amounts based on current customer counts,” explained Kemp. Additionally, Residential Dining tracks portions consumed per dish and this information allows managers to determine how much food to prepare to help reduce food waste. UCSB Residential Dining also conducts weekly food waste audits to see where they can make improvements to recipe sizes.

University Center Dining is also tackling food recovery and doing so by partnering with FoodCycling, a new Office of Student Life student group. A play-on of recycling food and bicycling, FoodCycling hopes to establish a program where volunteers can pick up leftover salads, sandwiches, and other ready-made pre-packaged items from the UCen eateries on campus and distribute it to A.S. Food Bank on a bike. The University Center has for many years been donating baked goods to the Associated Students Food Bank and sits on the Food Security Taskforce, the core steering committee on campus tackling the challenge of how to reduce food insecurity of UCSB students.

According to student food recovery coordinator Navpreet Khabra, the student group also hosted a food recovery panel presentation in partnership with the Food, Nutrition, and Basic Skills Program, organized volunteers to support local gleaning non-profit, Food Forward of Ventura (gleaning is collecting excess food in this case from farm land), and in general, is raising awareness amongst students of the critical issue of food waste. In Winter, Food Cycling will be expanding their workshops to teach people how they can recover food in their own homes. Want to get involved with this club? Check out “FoodCycling at UCSB” on Facebook for more information! You can also sign up for text message announcements about volunteer activities by texting “LINKUP” to 33222.

From dining halls and the University Center to student groups, UCSB is tackling food waste all over campus. #MyLastTrash is a great way to get the conversation about reducing food waste: find out more at