Office of Sustainability tackles food waste

Adrianna RochesterGeneral Assignments Reporter

    Food waste is when any edible items goes unconsumed or discarded by retailers due to undesirable blemishes or colors and by plate waste being discarded by consumers.

    According to The Campus Kitchen Project, about 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted each year. The site goes onto state that one in six Americans do not know where their next meal will come from. Food waste is both an environmental issue as well as a social problem in America. The same time, when one wastes 40 percent of their food supply, one in seven people are food insecure.

    At Southern Connecticut State University, the Office of Sustainability has taken on the mission to help reduce food waste on our campus by taking many initiatives to educate students on ways they can contribute to waste reduction and by implementing programs across campus that will get students participating in these practices more.

    Heather Stearns, recycling coordinator of the Office of Sustainability, said a lot of cross contamination on campus is found in the waste and recycling stream because many people on campus throw items away without thinking which items should get disposed where.

    “We’ve tried to show how to properly throw away items by placing bins side by side with images to show which bin is for recyclables and which is for regular trash,” Stearns said.

    One way, Stearns said, to get people on campus into actively throwing things away in the right places is by presenting the options to them. Along with promoting the reduction of food waste, Stearns also promotes food recovery by collecting unwanted food items from students and redistributing them to various food pantries in the New Haven community.

    “One thing we tell students is to try only taking as much food as you need and to go back for seconds if they desire more versus taking large amounts of food and throwing away the rest when we’ve gotten full,” said Stearns.

    Constant education and expansion on food recovery and how it can be used to give back to the community is one thing, Stearns said, last year about 2,000 pounds of food was donated to the New Haven community, which is something she would like to see more of.

    “This spring we are hoping to reduce cup waste by promoting reusable cups,” Stearns said. “Students will be able to reuse any size cups and pay for the price of an eight ounce cup.”

    The student center goes through about 65,000 cups a month, so rather than paying different prices for multiple size cups, students are paying one price to use their reusable cups, Stearns said.

    Suzanne Huminski, sustainability coordinator, agreed that more work needs to be done by making more connections with projects focused to environmental issues.

    Two things Huminski said that she has learned are that people are passionate about food, but either they do not always make the conscious effort to not waste food or they do not know how to properly save food. Also, when one saves food versus wasting it, they can actually save more money.

    For example, laws like the Good Samaritan Act, Huminski said, stretches to food donations. It is not illegal to donate foods from restaurants or your home, as long as the food that is being given does not violate any health codes.

Photo Credit: Adrianna Rochester – General Assignments Reporter

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