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"Save it for Seconds" Saves Food

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
February 28, 2007

UNH dining halls throw away more than 5,000 pounds of food a week.

Five thousand pounds. A week.

Now, granted, the tossed food is recycled in the form of compost so it’s not a total waste. And while the poundage is the equivalent of nearly 5,000 meals, it’s not like throwing away 5,000 full meals. Still, we could do better, says Jon Plodzik, associate director for hospitality services.

To that end, UNH dining is challenging students, faculty and staff to reduce the quantity of waste during the week of March 5. At the end of the week, all the uneaten food that was thrown out will be pulped and measured by weight. The dining hall with the least amount of waste will win a reward.

The initiative couples with the Office of Sustainability’s efforts to raise awareness during Energy Saver Week.

"Although we pulp and compost our food waste on a daily basis, it is important that we try to reduce the amount of food not being consumed,” Plodzik says. “Current food waste numbers per week total 3,000 pounds in Holloway Commons, 1, 300 pounds in Elements at Philbrook and 1,250 pounds in Stillings Marketplace. That's the equivalent of more than 5,000 meals, at one pound of food per person. There's a lot we can do to cut that number back with help from our guests."

UNH dining halls serve close to 70,000 meals a week. In calculating the waste, that means every 14th meal is wasted, Plodzik says. Encouraging diners not to take a tray is one way to reduce the numbers. Taking a tray means taking more food.

“Other colleges and universities have had success with controlling food waste by eliminating trays,” Plodzik adds.

The "Save it for Seconds” challenge boasts the following cues:

  • Mindful Monday - Plan your meal by checking dining services’ website, monitor or menu board.
  • Trayless Tuesday - Any guest not using a tray will get a raffle ticket for a chance to win $75 from iTunes.
  • Wasteless Wednesday - One out of every 14 meals gets thrown away. Resolve not to be the 14th.
  • Thrifty Thursday - Take appropriate portions. If you enjoyed your meal, feel free to go back and get more.
  • Fundamental Friday - Reviews all these themes.

The concept came from a student who was concerned about the amount of discarded food she was witnessing. Dining services began working with her and another student to devise a plan for curbing the waste.

“UNH Dining hopes that this week will make guests more aware of what they can do to reduce waste and looks forward to carrying these themes on throughout the year,” Plodzik says.

Every year across the country, 91 billion pounds of food are wasted. If that number was reduced by 25 percent, the savings could feed 20 million people annually.

For more information, contact Plodzik at 2-4831 or visit http://www.unh.edu/dining/.

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