Sept. 13, 2010

WEIGHING IN ON WASTE

produceAmericans trash 25 percent of all the food they prepare, leading to 31 million tons of wasted food piling up in landfills each year. That food waste produces methane gas, which breaks down the ozone layer and leads to climate change.

This fall, Sodexo, the university's food service provider, started a pilot program at CSUMB and seven other campuses across the country to analyze and measure kitchen waste in an effort to better manage it.

Using a software system designed by a company called Lean Path, the food service staff can pinpoint what foods are being overproduced – and wasted. Four to 10 percent of food that commercial customers purchase ends up as kitchen waste, according to Lean Path's website.

By reducing food waste, the company says, it can also save fossil fuels that transport the waste.

Students are also being enlisted to cut food waste as a way to curb climate change.

Sodexo is asking students to take two simple steps: take only what they plan to eat, and come back if they're still hungry.

On Sept. 1, guests at CSUMB's Dining Commons were asked to weigh their leftovers. More than 200 people participated, ringing up 47 pounds of edible waste or about 3.48 oz. per person. The wasted food also translates to 17,860 gallons of water and 11.7 gallons of fossil fuel wasted, and 235 pounds of C02 created.

The next weighing will be held the first week of December. The results will be compared to see if the educational efforts have been successful.

"We are careful to source and serve food for our customers in a sustainable way, but if locally-sourced food ends up in a landfill, then we're simply creating another environmental problem," said Tom Post, Sodexo's president of campus services.

"The good news is that by simply thinking before we eat, we can trash our wasteful habits and dramatically reduce food waste," Post said.

This is another step in a program that Sodexo started on Earth Day 2008, when it called on its college operations to give up cafeteria trays, a move that reduced waste by 30 percent. To date, about 340 campuses – including CSUMB – have stopped using trays, reducing food waste and saving thousands of gallons of water required to wash them each year.

To learn more, visit www.stopwastingfood.org.