During the 2012-14 school years, the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Dining Services wasted a total of 1,735 tons, or 3,470,000 pounds of food, according to the university’s Annual Sustainable Food Reports. Out of the total, 76 percent turned into compost, 18 percent was recycled and six percent found its way into a landfill.
To combat this issue, Dining Services has implemented a number of measures at the dining commons.
Every month, the general managers of each dining common construct a four-week cycle menu that predicts the amount of portions for each dish, according to Dining Services Dietitian Danielle Kemp. This process involves using historical accounts of past consumption and waste to determine the amount of food made, Kemp added.
“Annually, we serve around 2.6 million meals,” Kemp wrote in an email to The Bottom Line. “Our General Managers … forecast the number of portions for each dish. The forecast number is determined using different tools. Forecasting is truly the ‘art and science of estimating.’”
The university also enforces food audits to find which foods are being thrown away and work on ways to decrease the production of those foods, Kemp wrote.
“[A]ny food that cannot be saved is … composted,” Kemp wrote. “In January 2013 our [Housing and Residential Services] grounds unit received the first delivery of compost, created and collected from [our waste program]. We compost 100% of our food waste. Dining is able to divert 94% of its total waste from the landfill, including recycling.” The remaining six percent is made up of non-recyclable waste.
In addition to the efforts happening with Dining Services, H&RS is constantly looking for new collaborators to increase efficiency.
The dining commons have so far partnered up with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge and the Associated Students-run Department of Public Worms to reduce food waste.
An example of the partnership at work, Kemp explained, is when student workers from Public Worms visit the dining commons around four times a week throughout the school year to pick up leftover vegetable trimmings and coffee grounds.
“The food is used to feed worm bins located in the Eucalyptus Grove on campus,” Kemp said. The compost that is created is used in garden plots on campus or is made into worm tea, which is sold publicly.”
Furthermore, there is collaboration between Dining Services and the Associated Students Food Bank’s program Swipe Out Hunger.
“[The program began] two years ago to allow residents with a meal plan the opportunity to donate meals to their peers who find themselves in need of a hot meal,” Kemp said. “Residents have donated over 4,000 meals tickets distributed through the Associated Students Food Bank.
The donated meal swipes go to the Food Bank, where workers there handle distribution, said Food Bank Coordinator Tuyen Nguyen.
There is currently an open internship application for a Food Recovery Project Coordinator whose goal is to develop a plan to divert food waste from the dining commons and help people in need, according to the UCSB Sustainability website. While the plan is still conceptual, the idea behind it is to establish a relationship between food donors and distribution sites. The program is expected to take a year to develop and several more to implement.
Student activists have set their sights on student hunger as well. This year, the UC Student Association is developing two campaigns, one of which will tackle food insecurity and housing. The campaign Sustain Our Students comes on the heels of a report that 42 percent of UC students identify as food insecure.