Tackling Food Waste at Furman: Chapter 1

By Catherine Hayward
Written February 13, 2018

Furman University is tackling global food waste one bucket of compost at a time.

Concerns over the ability to feed increasing world’s populations has come down to one major topic: food waste. The world has been facing a new era of food production. Commercial farming has led this upward incline over the last decade. Sustainability students on Furman University’s campus examined this phenomenon on the smaller scale of a college campus. Through composting, promotional awareness and a sustainable campus dining hall, Furman is making leaps toward food waste prevention and understanding.

Furman Farm 2017 compost manager Haley Disinger uses her sustainability major to understand these issues better. “We have enough to feed the world population just the distribution is so skewed toward where we have countries with hyper or overnutrition and countries that are dealing with malnutrition. You want to reduce overproduction of food to stop excess at the source.”

In terms of tacking food waste from the kitchen, on Furman University’s campus there are no shortcuts when it comes to food production. The Furman dining hall is the main machine driving responsible food waste management on campus. Bon Appetit is the current dining hall food service and they stand by a sustainable mission.

Based in Palo Alto, CA, they operate “more than 1,000 cafés in 33 states for dozens of marquee clients”, the Bon Appetit website said. Having locally source produce as frequently as possible is their main goal, they said.

“Our food is cooked from scratch, including sauces, stocks, and soups. A pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, we’ve developed programs addressing local purchasing, overuse of antibiotics, sustainable seafood, the food–climate change connection, humanely raised meat and eggs and farmworkers’ rights,” Bon Appetit said.

Wasteful habits in the kitchen also contribute to an increased amount of food waste the company said. To avoid this, the chefs in the dining hall kitchen have been specifically trained to be more conscious of how the food is prepared they said.

Furman University Bon Appetit Fellow, Amie Newsome described how when she visited the Furman dining hall kitchen she was excited to see their dedication to more environmentally friendly practices. The dining hall staff has thought through sustainable cooking on every step she said.

No aspect of what is cooked for the dining hall is forgotten when it comes to being resourceful Newsome said.

“Preparing food from scratch in small batches to order, using snout-to-tail and stem-to-root cooking techniques, and being the first company to talk guests out of using trays has all helped us keep our food waste to a minimum,” Bon Appetit said.

Even with incorporating such a hardworking dining hall system, there have still been issues with wasting food at Furman Newsome said.  In a study conducted by the Bon Appetit fellowship team dozens of pounds of food were found to be wasted each hour.

“We have events like the Weigh Your Waste Days to promote food waste consciousness. So think about the precious resources you’re consuming when you pile up your plate,” the fellows said.

On one specific waste day they found that in just 45 minutes, 11 students produced 24 pounds of food waste. They concluded that out of the estimated 2,700 students on campus, 584 pounds of food waste is generated per meal time. The team described their surprise at these numbers.

“This may just be a direct mirror into what is happening with food waste in the world,” Newsome said.

In terms of the future, however, the fellows are hopeful.

The team is always looking for new ways to inform the Furman student body. Their goal is to get the students involved and aware of food waste and overall concepts of sustainability Newsome said. Eat Low Carbon Day, Weight Your Waste Day, Bike Blender Event, Meatless Mondays, Farm Workers’ Awareness Week, and maybe more all contribute to their mission she said.

Junior Bon Appetit fellow Celia Castellano said her most favorite activity was the Bike Blender. Not only is it a good way to promote the environment, it is also unique enough to attract many people she said.

“It’s a super fun way to make smoothies using less energy and people really enjoyed it,” she said. “While it might not make the biggest impact from an emissions reduction standpoint, it’s a great way to teach people about environmentally friendly activities.”

Yet, these fun activities still do not fully tackle the growing issue of food waste on campus and throughout the world she said.

Check back to the blog next week to read chapter 2 of Tackling Food Waste on Furman’s campus! Read what Furman does to redirect leftovers.

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