Sodexo Increases Efforts to Reduce Food Waste in Dining Halls

Laura Nayibi Arias, Culture Editor

   This semester, our campus’ food services company, Sodexo, has created two new internship positions in order to help further their efforts towards sustainability. On September 21, Student Sustainability Coordinators, Sarah Vitro and Gregory Talamini began a new campaign as part of an ongoing initiative to decrease the amount of food waste being generated in our dining halls. The “Waste Wheel,” as seen centered, is intended to reward the students that are less wasteful, while passively informing the students that are more wasteful. This effort is being done in unison with a waste audit that will document the amount of food waste in Wilsbach over time. Current levels of waste will be compared to those of the past in order to determine whether the amount food waste is decreasing. This waste audit is being conducted in part by fellow environmental science student Shelby Zemken.

   State Times culture editor and “Be the Green” columnist, Laura Arias, had a chance to interview Talamini and Vitro over the break. She asked them a few questions about their project:

State Times: Would you briefly explain how the wheel works?
Talamini and Vitro: Surely. When students bring a clean plate to the dish room, we stop them and ask if they’d like to spin our wheel for a chance to win a prize. The wheel is very much like the one on “Wheel of Fortune” except the prizes are better and you don’t have to put up with Pat Sajak’s attempts at humor. Students had a chance to win things like T-shirts, healthy snack foods, $5 in declining, vouchers for free Starbucks coffee, handmade soaps, reusable drink containers etc. There were also a few empty spaces on the wheel to keep things interesting.
ST: Why is the issue of food waste significant?
GT and SV: According to Sodexo’s figures, the average person throws away 163 pounds of food each year. While we’ve recently begun to compost some of our food waste from the salad station in Wilsbach, we are very far from being able to compost all of it. Our composter is simply not big enough to contain the waste that’s generated daily. However, Sodexo does use pulpers in each dining hall to significantly reduce all dining hall waste. This issue is significant when you consider the amount of time, energy and resources that are required to grow, harvest, ship, and cook our food. It really is distressing to see it slide by, untouched, on the conveyor belt in the dish room.
ST: What were the reactions like?
GT: I think that people really enjoyed it because it was something new for Wilsbach. Quite a few people came up to us, eager to show us their clean plates for a chance to win something. Some people approached us with curiosity when they saw us standing there. A few people thought it was rigged when they didn’t win. It was important for us to make sure that we didn’t make anyone feel bad about themselves after being unable to finish their food. We don’t want to be dogmatic about the subject of sustainability because we understand that it’s not on everyone’s list of priorities. However, sustainability is one of the six pillars of SUCO’s strategic plan* and we want to do all that we can to help achieve that goal. It’s nice to know that Sodexo’s values are in line with those of our college and we want to foster this kind of mindset within our student community by rewarding our peers when they act sustainably. I know I’m not perfect, I’ve been there before. Whether I’m running late for a class or a bus, sometimes you just have to leave in a hurry. But success as a student requires foresight to be able to manage your time and plan accordingly. Sustainability requires foresight too. I think that we need to have the foresight to adapt our consumption patterns after considering their impacts on future generations.

   The “Waste Wheel” will appear sporadically at Wilsbach and Hulbert dining halls throughout the year. For more information, questions or comments regarding Sodexo’s sustainability initiatives, email Vitro at [email protected] or Talamini at [email protected].
*A strategic plan that was created by SUCO’s Strategic Planning and Resource Council (SPARC). It was announced by College President, Nancy Kleniewski, in 2009, and was adopted in 2010.

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