Dining halls measure food waste, discuss future solutions

Food waste is composted in Upper Farinon, but that is not currently common practice in Marquis. (Photo by Kathryn Kelly ’19)

Do you ever wonder what happens to your leftovers, after you discard a dish in the dining hall? You may think what you leave on your plate is not that much, but the waste piles up.

In fact, food waste is estimated to be between 30-40% of the food supply in the United States alone, according to the USDA. That’s 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food.

The USDA are not the only ones collecting data about food waste, however. On display in Marquis Dining Hall recently was data regarding Lafayette’s own waste: in Marquis, half the food taken is discarded.

For a couple of days each semester, bins in the dining halls collect the scrapes of waste produced by students. According to Carolyn Karwick, Resident District Manager of the Bon Appétit Management Company at Lafayette College, this is part of a campaign to measure how much waste is produced by Lafayette students.

“We have Weight the Waste campaigns every year in the fall and the spring, partnering with the Office of Sustainability,” Karwick wrote in an email. We also had a project [three] semesters ago for our kitchen waste and came in very low for waste products. For our most recent Weigh the Waste campaign, we collected 59 pounds for two two-hour lunch periods in Marquis and Upper Farinon.”

Collecting the data is just the first step, she said. Next comes putting the data to use.

“We share [the data] with Sustainability, and they have used that to set up and support several initiatives on campus, such as the Food Recovery Club and Composting programs,” she said.

With all of the waste produced on a daily basis, one might turn to composting for a solution towards recycling the waste. While Upper has taken this step, Marquis has yet to do so.

Karwick wrote that “Currently, our only composting option is through the current LaFarm initiative. We work directly with Lisa Miskelly, the Farm Director, who picks up the food materials for composting from Upper. We do not have a pulper at Marquis. We just this week started to put kitchen food waste from Marquis into buckets (not pulped) for pickup as well.”

As for Upper, which already has an established compost routine, the process is a little different.

“We donate any excess edible food we can to [Third Street] Alliance, Project Easton and other hunger organizations. Plate waste goes through our pulper, into composting buckets for pick up by LaFarm and then taken to the composting bins,” Karwick wrote.

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