Campus Dining Services (CDS) estimates that a total of 250 tons of food waste is produced within the dining halls each year. That figure breaks down to about 4.5 ounces of food waste per student per meal everyday.
CDS has sought proactive steps to restrict the amount of food that is leftover and ultimately wasted at the end of the day, said Campus Dining Services Marketing Manager Michael Wuest.
For example, many of the raw fruits and vegetables featured on the salad bar one day may be repurposed for use in a soup the next.
However, some foods are subject to specific guidelines and cannot be repurposed for additional meals, or may only be reheated one time. For this reason, most meals are made to order, with chefs preparing only 10 to 20 portions at one time.
CDS has transitioned to this procedure in the last few years in order to cut back on the amount of food that is prepared, and the amount of leftovers and food waste produced.
“It’s the right thing to do. We strive in everything that CDS does to preserve and conserve the natural resources that we have in order to limit the impact we have on the environment,” said Wuest.
At each of the 21 dining locations on campus, there is an overall focus on encouraging students to be conscientious about the amount of food they put on their plates each trip back to the buffet line.
“As a student eating in the dining halls, I like to get smaller portions of various foods in multiple dishes. That way I can sample a lot of different things like salad or cereal without overeating, or potentially wasting a large portion of my meal,” freshman Lee Banov said.
CDS firmly believes in providing students with a vast array of meal options, while also maintaining a focus on limiting food waste. Students are provided with sundry opportunities to construct the meal of their choice, but are encouraged to only take as much food as they will eat.
Beginning in October, much of the food waste will travel a few short miles east of Columbia to the Bradford Research and Extension Center to be composted. Superintendent of the Bradford Center, Tim Reinbott has excitedly begun work on a project termed “Composting in a Zero Carbon Footprint Production System,” now in the final stages of construction at the Bradford Center.
Reinbott will collaborate with University of Missouri students to create and run a closed-loop composting system.
Food waste from the campus will be composted at the center through a process called aerated static pile in which food scraps are mixed with other ingredients including horse bedding, manure and saw dust, heated, and then aerated. The month-long process will intake a total of 250 tons of food waste each year and produce about 170 tons of nutrient-rich compost.
Compost will be used in soil to grow vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and sweet corn, which will then be sent back to the dining halls to be consumed by students.
The university is among a select few in the nation to experiment with composting food waste produced on campus, and the only school to do so through an entirely closed-loop.
In the future, Reinbott hopes to utilize leftover vegetable oil from the dining halls to manufacture biodiesel to power transport trucks to and from the Bradford Center, as well as tractors and other machinery used on the farm.
“We’ll be the first in the nation to have a complete system like this. We can be an example for other schools, including Columbia public schools, and universities who serve more meals per day than MU does. We’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint in whatever we do, and this is a great way to produce vegetables while reducing our environmental impact,” Reinbott said.
Reinbott encourages student participation in the project, from experimenting with composting techniques on the farm, to marketing the environmentally conscious image on campus.
Limiting the impact CDS has on the environment has increasingly moved into the limelight. New programs are implemented each year in order to subvert these effects by limiting the amount of food produced and sustainably manage waste at the end of the day.