Tiger Dining and Campus Kitchens Partner to Reduce Food Waste

Post contributed by Katie Peters, Marketing Assistant, Tiger Dining

Tiger Dining seeks to handle the food served on campus in the most sustainable and responsible way possible, from the beginning to end of the food service process. Our associates are reminded during food preparation to reduce food waste with our “Waste Not” reduction program which allows our associates to track, measure and reduce the amount of food waste by placing any food scraps into measurable containers.

Through a five year partnership with The Campus Kitchens Project, any unused food is donated from venues across campus. It is then portioned into meals for local churches, missions, and food insecure people in our area. Campus Kitchen Projects averages about 200-250 meals every week which has a huge impact on the community and lowers the amount of food waste being transported to the landfill.

Student Volunteers at banquet
Student volunteers with Campus Kitchens pose with attendees of the annual banquet.

Tiger Dining also supports Campus Kitchen Projects with annual banquets for local residents of Assisted Living Facilities. Senior Executive Chef Emil says, “We enjoy giving them the opportunity to have a special night on campus with great food and fellowship.”

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Easy Actions, Massive Impact: How Students Can Reduce Food Waste

Post contributed by Ruthie Wofford, Communications Coordinator, Hunger Solutions Institute

Photo of Trash Hunger campaign materials.
Campus resources exist to help you fight food waste and hunger.

As a recent Auburn grad, I can attest to the fact that life as a college student is, in a word, hectic. Between studying, group projects, football games, maintaining a social life, and attempting to get enough sleep, you’re lucky to eat three square meals a day. Unfortunately, with all the chaos that college creates, it can be very hard to be a socially conscious student. For example, if you’re running late for class, you might grab a plastic water bottle instead of grabbing your Nalgene. If you’re stressed out from a long day of studying, you may be tempted to take a lengthy shower. The list goes on and on.

While socially and ecologically responsible actions may seem like a lot of work, fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to save money, help hungry people, and protect the environment – and they all involve food waste.

Each year, the average college student wastes 142 pounds of food a year. 22,000,000 pounds of uneaten food is thrown away on university campuses annually. On a global scale, around 1 in 9 people are hungry, yet we throw away a collective 1.3 billion tons of food. Food waste is extremely harmful to the planet and costs the average American household about $640 a year.

So how can you, a college student, reduce the amount of food you waste?

Plan Ahead

Didn’t have time to finish that gallon of milk? Is that peach getting a little too fuzzy? Save money, time, and the environment by keeping track of what you throw away so you can remember what to buy less of next time. Then make a grocery list! Instead of wandering through the aisles of your local grocery store, follow the list so you don’t buy anything unnecessary.

Save your Leftovers

If you’re running late to your next class, keep your half-eaten Chick-Fil-A sandwich with you. Every food vendor on campus uses convenient to-go packaging, so you can save your purchase as snack for after class.

Raise Awareness

If you waste food sometimes, chances are your friends do too. Reducing food waste is an easy way to save money, help the environment, and end hunger – why not tell everyone you can? Share facts on social media, host a forum or film screening, and/or organize an awareness campaign with your friends.

Join a campus organization

Auburn University’s chapter of The Campus Kitchen Project collects unserved food from dining halls, repackages the food, and distributes it to hungry students and Auburn community members. Volunteering is easy and you can go whenever you have time. Sign up on their AU Involve page to get started.

There are a lot of resources out there to help you get started on your path to food waste reduction! Remember, easy lifestyle changes can make a huge in the long run. For more information, check out Trash Hunger, Not Food: A Guide to End Food Waste on Campus

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Fighting Food Waste and Feeding People: More Than Just a Motto

Post contributed by Kenzley Defler, Office of Sustainability Intern

Like many college students, I’m often told the importance of getting involved on campus in order to make connections and build a resume. Last year in early January, I thought about this advice and decided to take heed by searching AU Involve, Auburn’s online directory of all student organizations. I have always been passionate about the environment and sustainability, so I focused my search on these themes. While Auburn has many opportunities in this area, one group in particular caught my attention- The Campus Kitchens Project. I had never heard of the organization before but “fighting hunger and food waste” definitely seemed like a club I would be interested in. After attending a meeting and volunteering at a couple of weekly shifts, I could already see the positive impact made by Campus Kitchens and couldn’t wait to get more involved.

Photo of students packaging meals.
Students work together to package balanced meals for distribution in the community.

The Campus Kitchens Project focuses on eliminating food waste and fighting food insecurity by donating unserved food to community members in need. In the United States, 40% of food is wasted each year, while 1 in 6 people don’t know where their next meal will come from. The Campus Kitchens Project strives to fight these startling statistics in student-powered initiatives focused on strengthening bodies, empowering minds, and building communities. This academic year, 53 schools across the nation have a Campus Kitchens Project running, with about 28,700 student volunteers involved.

At Auburn, this program has been developed into a student-led group offering volunteer opportunities in the form of three different kinds of shifts. Each week over 70 volunteer slots are open in 29 total shifts, each of which is led by a shift leader. At pickup shifts we go to Tiger Dining kitchens and pick up any extra food they have, which is then used in packaging shifts to assemble nutritious meals. Delivery shifts are responsible for distributing the food collected in the form of meals or entire pans, depending on the need of each community partner. Currently Auburn collects food from 8 campus dining locations and donates to 14 community partners, such as Our House, His Place, Salvation Army, Harbor House, Esperanza House, and Meals on Wheels.

One of my favorite aspects of working with Campus Kitchens is being involved with other students from all over campus to make changes in our local community. In Lee County, 18% of people are food insecure and the work done by Campus Kitchens is striving to make a difference. The individuals and community partners we serve are extremely grateful for the food they receive, and I’m humbled to be able to help through my work with Campus Kitchens. Interacting with the community has been a highlight for me because I enjoy meeting new people and making a difference for them in any way possible. Because I have always been very environmentally focused, I also appreciate that we can decrease the amount of food being thrown into a landfill by picking up food from dining halls. I find it appalling how much food can be wasted, either from students’ plates or from the kitchens, so it’s encouraging to fight against this food waste. In 2016, we recovered 14,136 pounds of food and served 11,109 meals! Looking at what our group did in just a single year is motivating and proves that the impact of our weekly works adds up quickly.

Photo of Kenzley Defler weighing food.
Kenzley works to weigh and record the food collected in preparation for packaging shifts.

In addition to recovering food to be given out, Campus Kitchens hosts several events throughout the year to involve and educate the Auburn community. For example, last fall we partnered with the Committee of 19 to show the documentary Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. This powerful film focused on a couple that only ate off of wasted food, i.e. food that would otherwise have been thrown away, for six months. The images shown of entire dumpsters filled with perfectly edible food that was being thrown out were shocking and eye opening. This documentary was a concrete visualization of the food waste problem being fought by Campus Kitchens.

One of my favorite events we hosted was a dinner banquet for EASE House. East Alabama Services for the Elderly focuses on providing life-sustaining services to senior citizens in Lee and Russell Counties. Last spring, Campus Kitchens partnered with Tiger Dining to plan a meal for some of the residents who came to Auburn’s campus for dinner. We helped set up and serve dinner to the residents and also got the chance to visit with them during the meal. Not only are events like this lots of fun, they provide a great way to interact with individuals in the community on a more personal level.

Since beginning to volunteer and becoming part of the leadership team of Auburn’s Campus Kitchens Project, I’ve learned so much about food waste and food insecurity and have seen the importance of breaking this cycle. It’s become a topic I’m passionate about and something I could see myself pursing in my future career. My involvement with the organization may have started out as an activity to put on a resume, however, it’s become so much more than that to me. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, and most importantly, the opportunities I’ve had to make a difference in the community through my work with the Campus Kitchens Project at Auburn.

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Waste Not, Want Not with Tiger Dining

Post Contributed by Gwen Ward, Administrative Assistant, Campus Dining

Students can get made to order food at many locations on campus.
Students can get made to order food at many locations on campus.

Let’s imagine…close your eyes and envision yourself seated at a large table sharing a meal with your family and friends.  The banquet table is piled high with mounds of mashed potatoes, large platters filled with an assortment of meats and vegetables, grandma’s famous fruit salad, and a dessert selection without compare.  You’ve eaten your fill, but the table is still laden with delectable fare.  What will happen with all that food?

Now let’s multiply this situation by a thousand.  Tiger Dining faces the challenge of feeding about 20,000 people every class day, and we implement programs along three phases of the food service process to ensure campus food is handled as responsibly as possible.

Food preparation is the first area where Tiger Dining works to minimize waste.  Trim Trax is a food waste reduction program used to track, measure and reduce the amount of food waste in our facilities on campus. By collecting food scraps in measurable containers, operational efficiency increases as food prep workers become more conscious about reducing food waste and its environmental impact.  As an example, coffee grounds from our coffee shops and restaurants are collected in five-gallon buckets which are then donated to a local charity and recycled into a nearby community garden. This not only eliminates food waste and landfill space but also provides vital nutrients to enrich local soil.

Repackaging un-served foods helps Campus Kitchens Project feed hunger community members.
Repackaging un-served foods helps Campus Kitchens Project feed hunger community members.

Serving food is the second area where Tiger Dining works diligently to minimize food waste. Many foods served in Tiger Dining locations are made to order.  Patrons order custom sandwiches and salads, eliminating the need to remove unwanted toppings or condiments.  This reduces a substantial amount of food waste.  Tiger Dining also serves food and drink in biodegradable and eco-friendly containers to help minimize the impact on landfills.

Finally, Tiger Dining is proud to partner with the Campus Kitchens Project to eliminate food waste in the third area of food service.  Food that has been prepared but not served is not thrown away!  This food is placed in containers and refrigerated at the end of each day. Campus Kitchens volunteers collect these containers on a regular basis.  These volunteers then safely store the food, and each week they repackage the food and deliver it to food insecure individuals within our local community.

So the next time you order your salad with extra green peppers but no onions, rest assured that you’re being a responsible consumer by leaving behind those breath-killers you’ll never eat.  And thank you, cause I like extra onions on mine!

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