Between the Marketplace and dining halls, students and faculty at Binghamton University have many options for eating on campus. But with food being delivered six days a week to meet campus’ demands, waste is inevitable.
However, students and Sodexo employees have incorporated policies to eliminate virtually all food waste in dining halls and the Marketplace. One facet to BU’s food waste prevention is donating all the leftover food at the end of the day to those in need in the local community.
The Food Recovery Network (FRN) is a national nonprofit organization taking place on campuses all across America designed to donate leftover food to local charities. Maya Yair, ‘14, began the initiative at BU last year through Hillel’s Committee for Social Justice.
Sabrina Scull, a coordinator for the FRN program at BU and a senior majoring in environmental studies, said that every morning food delivery trucks pick up leftover items from all the dining halls and transport them to College-in-the-Woods Dining Hall.
By around 6 p.m., volunteers from various student organizations such as Hillel package the food, which then gets picked up by Volunteers of America and the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse. They then deliver it to local charities and soup kitchens, like the Salvation Army of Binghamton.
“This is so important because we are helping provide homeless and starving individuals with a steady supply of food that is easily accessible to them,” Scull said. “We are also keeping BU’s leftover food from becoming landfill waste.”
Richard Herb, chef manager of College-in-the-Woods Dining Hall, said campus-style meal plans will always result in some level of food waste at the end of the day because kitchens must always be stocked.
“With us trying to meet those requirements,” Herb said, “there’s food waste that occurs as a natural course of doing business.”
According to Herb, the program began its trial run last semester in CIW and was so successful that it has spread to all residential dining halls, the Marketplace and Tillman Lobby.
“We saw that it was such a wonderful program and it really allowed us to utilize leftovers in a way that we’ve never been able to before,” Herb said.
In a given week they receive around 1,500 pounds of food depending on the amount of leftovers. Scull says that since September, the FRN has saved 27,421.04 pounds of food.
John Enright, the director of Resident Dining, said that unless some form of contamination happens, everything fit for human consumption is donated. Food that is not fit for consumption, including students’ leftover food and chef’s pre-cooked trimmings, is put into 32-gallon compost barrels.
According to Herb, dining halls began composting back in 2006, and anything compostable is separated from the trash by kitchen staff and put into barrels. The barrels are then picked up by physical facilities and taken to an off-campus private compost facility. After it is turned into compost, it is brought back and used as fertilizer in gardens on campus and BU Acres, the student-run farm located on Bunn Hill Road.
Herb said that the fruits and vegetables grown on BU Acres are brought back to the CIW Dining Hall and sold to students at a reduced price.
“Even if you don’t know it, just by you placing your tray in the dish room window you’re contributing to growing new food on campus,” Herb said. “It’s a cycle.”
Kristina Klimek, a junior majoring in environmental studies, said she is glad there are initiatives being implemented to minimize food waste.
“It’s sad but true that we can often can be so forgetful of how privileged we are to have steady, even overwhelming, access to food products,” Klimek said. “Everyone deserves access to healthy foods.”