Food waste is an issue that plagues the campus and the community. NAU has attempted to solve the problem by providing programs to lessen wastefulness.
According to Gabriela Galvan, the sustainability coordinator for NAU Campus Dining, NAU Dining combats food waste by serving meals in portions that match consumer trends. Galvan saidthat, along with these goals, they have also implemented many programs and efforts to fight this issue.
“Food waste in the food service industry is always going to be an issue, but we are working hard to minimize it,” Galvan said. “We have several amazing programs in place, but there is more room to grow.”
One of these programs is the Food Recovery Network, which was established in 2014. Volunteers pick up leftovers from dining locations at NAU and deliver it to food banks. According to Galvan, NAU donates an average of 4,000 pounds of hot food every semester.
Despite these efforts, Galvan said managing food waste is a tough challenge at a campus of over 30,000 students and faculty and they are trying to find new ways to help. One of the newest programs to combat this issue is Louie’s Leftovers.
Louie’s Leftovers is a program that has students sign up for notifications of catering events with leftovers for them to eat. Hosts at these catering events answer questions regarding the location, amount of food and how long it will be there. Then, a notification is sent to students signed up for them on the NAUGO app.
Fighting food waste has extended beyond campus and is also part of the Flagstaff community.
Art Babbott, the Cococnino County Supervisor and manager of Flagstaff Community Market, said there is an issue with food waste, mostly from restaurants and grocery stores. Along with the increase of student participation in the market and a general interest, NAU has been one of biggest advocates in fighting wastefulness, according to Babbott.
“As a large entity, NAU is probably doing more than any [other prominent organizations] in Flagstaff,” Babbott said.
However, a large part of the responsibility relies on food service employees creating the appropriate portions.
Freshman Jessica Combs works as a cook and cashier at the Denny’s on campus, as well as an employee at Cobrizo Mexican Grill. She said that in her time working at both places, she has not seen an excess of waste that is common for the normal restaurant.
Combs said Denny’s often has little food to throw out and is pretty good at not wasting food. They even run out of supplies some weeks.
One of the reasons Denny’s has such little food waste is because everything is made to order, and thus they do not risk having to throw out food they made beforehand that was never sold.
While Denny’s does not struggle with food waste, Cobrizo has more because so much of the food is perishable. Also, Combs said that at the end of the day, they are normally throwing out beans and rice because of the large batches they are made in. A solution to this is to donate leftovers, but Combs does not see this happening.
“That I know of, I don’t think we give any of the food away,” Combs said. “I know before, sometimes when we had extra, we offered it to the Hot Spot or other eateries so they can use that food for cooking, but no, I don’t think we actually donate any food.”
According to NAU’s Dining website on sustainability, in 2013, NAU Dining removed trash bins from the Hot Spot and replaced them with a four-part composting system in which all post-consumer food waste is composted. This process diverted around 100,000 pounds of food waste from landfills yearly.
As of fall 2017, NAU Dining Services implemented a second composting system in The DüB Dining District and expect to increase their compost output by about 25 percent.
Some of the efforts put into reducing this waste are the composting machines in the dining halls, as they have composted over 300,000 pounds of food every year into soil used on campus.
Food waste may never be an issue that is totally gone, but NAU Campus Dining has made an effort to combat this issue.