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Dining halls seek to decrease waste

Wei Lin | Monday, April 29, 2013

The semi-annual Waste-Free Wednesdays campaign, which took place during April, aimed to decrease the food and liquid waste produced at Notre Dame.

Campaign co-chair Anna Gorman said the project seeks to educate students about the number of Americans who struggles to put food on the table.

“One in six Americans struggle with hunger, and the statistic is even higher for children,” she said. “We waste roughly enough food in our country to provide food for all those who are hungry.”

Each Wednesday in April from 6 to 7 p.m., volunteers handed out raffle tickets to students who cleared their trays at the dining halls. The winner of the raffle is awarded 100 Flex Points.

Gorman said the campaign, which is co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, Notre Dame Food Services, GreeND and the Hunger Coalition, had a total of about 1,200 participants in the past four weeks.

Prior to the start of the Waste- Free Wednesdays campaign in 2008, the average student wasted about five ounces of food per meal, adding up to nearly two tons of food wasted each day. By the end of the fall 2012 semester, the waste dropped to 3.26 ounces per meal, Gorman said.

This semester, Gorman said the waste is slightly higher, with an average of 3.5 ounces per student, but it has still drastically decreased compared to the 2008 statistics.

The Office of Sustainability has also contributed to reducing waste by posting educational posters in the dining halls to encourage students and faculty to only take what they can finish.

According to the office’ website, “Food scraps from the main Food Service facility are used for cattle feed, totaling about 37,000 pounds per year. Leftover cooked food is donated to two local homeless shelters.”

Gorman is similarly concerned about the impact of food waste to the environment.

“We are forcing our farms to produce more than we need, hurting our land. In addition, food waste produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas,” Gorman said.

With the combined efforts of the co-sponsors of Waste-Free Wednesdays, Gorman said the University can provide more food to the needy, answer a social responsibility and avoid putting unnecessary strains on the environment.

The challenge is letting people know they can easily have a large impact on hunger, Gorman said.

“Waste-Free Wednesdays could be more effective if we were better able to educate students,” she said.