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How Millennials are Reducing Food Waste

Posted by Emma Wabaunsee-Kelly, OCE Intern in Initiatives Conservation Food and Nutrition
Jul 30, 2013

Today’s college students and young professionals are particularly attuned to the environmental issues that face our nation. Universities across the United States are often stuck with excess food left over from dining halls, sporting events, and other social gatherings that more often than not goes directly into the dumpsters.  While many young adults across the country are working their way through school and loan payments, they are also becoming increasingly cognizant of the efforts underway at their Universities to reduce food waste.

In a recent study conducted by The Princeton Review, 69 percent of college applicants claim that a University’s environmental commitment would contribute to their decision to apply or attend the school. Fortunately for college students, there are several innovative and environmentally friendly ways to deal with excess food waste on-campus.

In June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency to lead a fundamental shift in how we think about and manage food and food waste in this country as it relates to climate change. With over 94 Universities and colleges currently signed up under the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, students across the U.S. are actively participating in the food waste conversation.

Some of my favorite on-campus groups that are working to address the challenges of food waste are The Campus Kitchen Project and The Food Recovery Network. Both organizations enlist students to coordinate with University dining facilities and neighboring soup kitchens to pick up uneaten prepared foods to bring to nearby agencies on a daily or weekly basis.

Another one of my favorite programs is at the University of California – Merced. The University’s dining program has installed OZZI machines that distribute and collect reusable takeout containers based on a token system. A survey at UC- Merced found that out of the 694 students who were surveyed, 427 regularly eat lunch on the go due to their busy schedules. With the OZZI machines students can therefore enjoy their food on the go while feeling good about putting less garbage into landfills.

The U.S. Food Waste Challenge highlights the intuitive efforts that young people are making to reduce and recover food waste every day. As a college student myself, I hope more educational institutions will join the challenge and work to make positive environmental changes on their campuses.