Dining Hall Institutes Programs to Eliminate Food Waste

dining hall shotWith the cooperation of students, faculty and staff, Eastern Connecticut State University’s Hurley Dining Hall has taken steps to help eliminate waste by cutting back on the trash that the dining hall produces each day.

The first step was the elimination of trays. In the past, students grabbed a tray and loaded as much food on as many plates as they wanted. Over the past two years trays have been removed, forcing students to take only the food they can carry. “This was a good move for us,” said Jeffrey Kwolek, senior director of dining services. “Students were wasting full plates of food because they thought they were that hungry. Now not as much food is wasted.”

The second step the dining services took was the “Food Recovery Program,” which repurposes leftover food. “I don’t like to see food thrown away,” said Kwolek. “We have a leftover rack that at the end of the day would just get tossed, so I thought why not let someone else eat it.”

Eastern has a strong partnership with the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic; students, faculty, sports teams and other Eastern community members volunteer their time to help those in need at the kitchen. Now, Hurley Hall has partnered with the Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) to arrange for the leftover food to be repurposed and sent to the soup kitchen twice a week. “More than 400 portions of food are sent every week,” said Kwolek. “This has definitely made a positive impact. Our wasted food isn’t going into the trash anymore; it’s going to people who can use it.”

The last program Hurley is participating in is a “Compositing Program.” This program is used to turn the waste that Hurley generates into energy and fuel. Instead of the trash being sent to waste management systems it is being sent to the Bio Power Plant in Southington CT.

“It’s important we do as much as we can to become a good partner with the community,” said Kwolek. “The programs we are trying are good ways to support that.”