Students waste 1,145 pounds of food daily

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Students waste 1,145 pounds of food daily

A Sodexo Dining Services food waste audit found that Market Central throws away more than 1,000 pounds of food per day. Courtesy of Sodexo Dining Services

A Sodexo Dining Services food waste audit found that Market Central throws away more than 1,000 pounds of food per day. Courtesy of Sodexo Dining Services

A Sodexo Dining Services food waste audit found that Market Central throws away more than 1,000 pounds of food per day. Courtesy of Sodexo Dining Services

A Sodexo Dining Services food waste audit found that Market Central throws away more than 1,000 pounds of food per day. Courtesy of Sodexo Dining Services

By Wesley Hood / Staff Writer

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On average, almost a grand piano’s weight of food goes to waste each day at Market Central.

In an effort to be more sustainable in the future, Sodexo released the final results of its food waste audit Monday — which included data from The Perch on upper campus — showing that about 237,000 pounds of food go to waste each academic year at campus’ largest eatery.

“That’s the equivalent of 68 midsize sedans worth of food being wasted,” said Chelsea Huddleston, Sodexo’s sustainability intern.

About 25,715 pounds of edible food — not including inedible scraps such as bones — go to waste at The Perch in Sutherland Hall every year. About 1,094 students eat at The Perch each day, and Market serves approximately 6,000 students in one day.

How Much Food Are We Throwing Out?

Market Central

  • 6,000 students visit Market each day
  • 1,014 pounds of edible food wasted per day
  • 237,000 pounds of food wasted per year

The Perch

  • 1,094 students visit The Perch each day
  • 131 pounds of food wasted per day
  • 25,715 pounds of food wasted per year

The Perch’s audit, which was its second this year, took place Oct. 8 following another report in the spring of 2016 that showed 214.97 pounds of food waste per day.

The initial audit from spring of 2016 took place over two days, while Sodexo conducted this year’s over the course of a single day. The new results showed a slight reduction in food waste from the prior semester. At The Perch, the previous audit showed students wasted 0.15 pounds of food each, whereas this year, students produced 0.11 pounds of waste each.

Nick Goodfellow, a 2015 Pitt alum who now works as Sodexo’s Sustainability Coordinator, attributed this decrease to more awareness about food waste, changes to the way food is plated, menu changes and The Perch’s new 24-hour schedule, which could have reduced the number of students eating at any given hour during the day.  

The goal of the audits, Goodfellow said, is to raise awareness about how much food goes in the garbage and eventually institute changes to minimize that waste.

One of the main environmental concerns, Goodfellow said, is the methane produced by decomposing food in landfills. Methane, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is a greenhouse gas — which contribute to global warming — more potent than carbon dioxide.  

“Most food waste goes to a landfill, and the goal here is to try to prevent that from happening on as large of a scale as it currently is,” Goodfellow said.

Compared to Western Michigan University, with a similar undergraduate enrollment of approximately 18,000 students, Pitt students wasted about the same amount of food. An audit at Western Michigan University found that their dining halls produced on average 1,024.85 pounds of food waste on a given day.

Goodfellow said universities collecting data is an alright start, but using those numbers to influence policy and make changes in dining halls should be the next rational move. He said that as early as next semester, Sodexo may begin posting signs offering students the chance to choose how much food they want on a plate and encouraging students to ask for samples.

“Awareness is indeed the first step, so getting this initial data is important,” Goodfellow said. “But what we do with this data is even more important.”

Like recycling and monitoring our carbon footprints, Goodfellow said he thinks students are probably aware that food waste is an issue, as it contributes to substantial economic damages and natural resource depletion, according to the United Nations. But individuals don’t actually take the incentive to monitor or change their own eating habits.

Sophomore Allen Poon,who was at Market Monday night, said he never felt it was his place to ask staff at the dining facilities for different portions.

“With the pre-plated dishes sitting there, it almost feels as though that’s your only option, and you’re bothersome to the staff if you ask for something different,” Poon said.

That’s why Goodfellow said signage will clearly state students have the option — and are, in fact, encouraged — to ask for smaller portions if necessary.

“I honestly wouldn’t mind asking for less or more food from someone. I hate being wasteful, so I think that’d probably be something I should start doing,” said first-year student Omar Abbas Monday night.

Sodexo is also planning to partner with organizations that would recover edible and untouched food at the end of each night from both The Perch and Market Central. One such organization, Food Recovery Heroes, has been collecting food from Market Central since Sept. 19 and have already recovered approximately 740 pounds of food, according to Goodfellow. 

Currently, the on-campus organization that donates leftovers to local food pantries also recovers food from Market To-Go, Market Kosher and both of Einstein’s on-campus locations.

Sodexo conducted the audits with help from student volunteers such as Maura Deely, a sophomore environmental science major.

As a volunteer, Deely helped separate the food waste from students plates into their respective categories carbohydrates, animal products or organic materials, for exampleand then measured the amounts of each every hour.

“I’m here because I know how much harm food waste is causing our environment, and I want to help our campus become more aware of that,” Deely said.

If efforts for raising awareness are successful, students will, in theory, become more observant about their eating — and trashing — habits and eventually change their routines, Huddleston said.

“People don’t want to be wasteful,” Huddleston said. “It is just a matter of getting the word out.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported that Food Recovery Heroes had not yet started recovering food from Market Central. Actually, the organization began recovering food from Market Central on Sept. 19, and has recovered approximately 740 pounds of food. A previous version of the story also stated Nick Goodfellow graduated in 2016, though he graduated in 2015. The story has been updated to reflect the accurate information. The Pitt News regrets these errors. 

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