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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The 2017 Sustainability Picnic Gives Food, Games, and Prizes Without Leaving Behind Waste

Post contributed by Ingrid Schnader, Office of Sustainability Intern

Photo of a lizard
Creatures of all shapes and sizes enjoyed the festivities.

Auburn students, employees, community members, dogs, and reptiles gathered around a grassy clearing in the Davis Arboretum August 23 to kick the fall semester off with the 5th annual Sustainability Picnic.

After the sky cleared up on that rainy Wednesday afternoon, the Sustainability Picnic enticed the community to come outside for games, live music, and food. The event encouraged people to learn more about sustainability-related opportunities in the Auburn community by visiting the colorful booths that surrounded the space.

Interns with Auburn’s Office of Sustainability offered guests a bingo card, which they completed by visiting the tables and learning about each organization. A sleek, orange and white bike donated by Parking Services enticed guests to play the game for an opportunity to win. Players received up to three raffle tickets for every bingo they filled on their cards, but only those who “blacked out” their cards by visiting all of the organizations listed were entered to win the grand prize bike.

While guests won gift cards, t-shirts, coffee beans and other prizes in the drawing, they also picked up blue frisbees, turn them upside-down, and use them as plates for dinner. Over 350 attendees lined up to scoop some of Tiger Dining’s vegetarian options onto their frisbee-turned plate.

Photo of people eating.
Picnickers enjoyed food from Tiger Dining that featured local ingredients.

After dinner, guests had the option of keeping the plate and silverware or giving it back to be washed and reused later. If food or paper remained on the plate, the attendees walked to one of the two waste stations to separate the remains into recycling or compost bins. However, there were no trash cans to be found in order to meet the event’s “no-waste” goal.

At the event’s end, the time came to announce the winner of the bike. Although the other door prizes stole the picnickers’ hearts as well, those who excelled at the bingo game waited in anticipation for this moment. A sustainability intern stood at the mic and fished through a basket of about 20 blacked-out bingo cards before finally calling out the winner’s name. This announcement was met with a squeal as the new bike owner ran through the crowd to accept her prize.

As people began to filter out of the arboretum, the remaining plates and silverware were either placed in one of the bins at the waste station or carried home with the guests to be used again later. After everything was sorted into recycling, compost, and things to be washed and reused, only .2 pounds of trash remained.

Although people thanked those working in Auburn’s Office of Sustainability for the successful event, it was made possible with the help of co-sponsors: Tiger Dining, the Waste Reduction and Recycling Department, the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, Academic Sustainability Programs, and the Natural Resources Management Degree.

Hope to see you next year at the Sustainability picnic!

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Going Beyond the Meal to Break the Cycle

Post contributed by Kenzley Defler, Office of Sustainability Intern

“Food alone will never end hunger.”

These words spoken by Mike Curtin, Chief Operating Officer of DC Central Kitchen and Alex Moore, Chief Development Officer of The Campus Kitchens Project, resonated with me over the three-day Boot Camp I attended in early August. Traveling to Washington, DC for the conference was an opportunity for myself and fellow student leader Ginny Lampkin to represent Auburn’s Campus Kitchen and learn more to expand our operations in the local community.

Kenzley and Ginny help out in an urban garden during the DC Central Kitchen Boot Camp

DC Central Kitchen is a national nonprofit organization working to end the cycle of poverty and hunger through various programs, such as culinary classes for unemployed individuals and development of grocery stores stocked with healthy options in food deserts. The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP), one of the programs under DC Central Kitchen, focuses more specifically on reducing food waste and ending food insecurity. This work is done in large part by CKP chapters in over 60 schools around the country. The Campus Kitchen at Auburn runs as an entirely student-led project where volunteers pickup food from campus dining halls, package that food into nutritious meals, and distribute the meals to more than 10 community organizations in the Auburn/Opelika area.

Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, the idea that ending hunger requires more than food is actually very true. In my time working with CKP, and especially at CKP Boot Camp this year, I’ve thought a lot about this idea and come to better understand the connection between poverty and hunger. While all aspects of CKP operations are important, and providing meals each day to those in need is making a big difference in the lives of those individuals, Mike Curtin’s statement that “No matter how many meals we serve today, people will still be hungry tomorrow,” speaks for itself. If we want to end the cycle of hunger and poverty, we have to move beyond the meal. Should we at CKP stop delivering meals or as a society stop giving out food in soup kitchens? Absolutely not. However, we need to move beyond food distribution to address a daily need, and also focus on solving the roots of the problem.

Auburn’s CKP has been focusing on moving beyond the meal through development of new programs, outreach events, and educational components. Last fall we hosted a film screening of “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” to educate the community about the billions of pounds of food thrown away each year. This year we will be partnering with East Alabama Services for the Elderly (EASE House) in a new initiative focusing on nutrition education and anti-isolation in the senior population. Our goal as a group has become larger than saving food from being thrown into the landfill by redistributing it. Ultimately, we want the work of CKP to do more than provide food to hungry people; we want to help break the cycle between poverty and hunger.

 

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Tiger Dining Presents “Tigers on the Green”

Post contributed by Katie Peters, Intern with Tiger Dining

Tiger Dining is proud to present, Tigers on The Green, an event celebrating food created on campus and in the Auburn community. This event will launch the Auburn Foods brand on April 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Green Space. Everyone is welcome to sample local foods and connect with the farmers who produced them.

Auburn Foods Logo
Look for the Auburn Foods logo at locations around campus.

Tigers on The Green is designed to help students connect with the folks who grow and produce their food. Local is considered a 250-mile radius, but “local” isn’t the only thing Auburn Foods represents. The Auburn Foods brand represents the connections we have with our food and the people who were involved in making it.

All of the partnerships involved with Auburn Foods have ties to Auburn University. These include multiple departments in the College of Agriculture: Horticulture, Fisheries, Meat Sciences and Food Sciences. Many local partners are alumni and others have students who are currently enrolled at Auburn. Eating Auburn Foods not only supports the academic mission of the university, it also gives back to the Auburn Family.

Highlighting and supporting sustainable agriculture and local business is not the only benefit of Auburn Foods. Locally produced foods travel the shortest distance possible to your plate, which means students receive fresher, tastier products with increased nutrient density.

Another aspect of Tiger Dining’s commitment to sustainability is reducing food waste and bringing unused product to the food insecure in our community. Tiger Dining partners with Campus Kitchens and the East Alabama Food Bank to donate surplus production from the greenhouses on campus to these worthy organizations who provide food to the hungry.

Join us on the Green Space to celebrate those who make Auburn Foods possible on April 21. Come meet the people involved with producing and growing your food. Thank you for your support!

 

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Sustainable Design & Experiential Learning: Village Dining

Post contributed by Kaitlin Robb, Office of Sustainability Intern

You may have noticed Village Dining looking a little different over the last year. A few changes are obvious, such as the tree mural painted by the entrance and the large tiger panels framing Tiger Zone. Some changes you may not have noticed yet, like the new carpeting and the multi-use rooms. What you probably don’t know, however, is that the new design was created by students.

Anna Ruth Gatlin, an Interior Designer for Auburn University and an adjunct professor, incorporates sustainability into her Interior Materials and Components class. When teaching about materials, she discusses the sustainability-related pros and cons of each product. Her class is designed to be thought-provoking. Therefore, last semester she gave her students a special final project. She split them into six teams, each tasked to redesign Village Dining. They had a client, Glenn Loughridge, Director of Tiger Dining, and their project was unique, as one design would actually be implemented for Tiger Dining.

Illustration of a design for Village Dining.
The winning team envisioned multi-use spaces to help enhance the dining experience.

The winning design consisted of three core elements: student satisfaction, Auburn history, and sustainability. Rachael Snow, a member of the winning team, was coincidentally chosen to be an intern with the Facilities Management Design Services unit. As a result, she has been working to execute her own team’s design. Design students conceptualize countless projects, but rarely see them carried out during their academic years. By designing a project for an actual client and then implementing the design, she has been able to see what does and doesn’t work beyond the conceptualization stage.

As part of their design, the winning team envisioned Village Dining as a multi-use space. As a result, Tiger Zone now has study spaces for students, along with repurposed rooms, which host events like Healthy Tigers Lunch and Learns for employees. The Tiger Zone area also has new recharge stations for students, and a “green wall” covered in plants, intended to “bring the outside in,” which supports cognitive behavior and makes people feel at peace. In addition, a future plan is to use televisions in the buffet area to educate consumers about food waste and encourage them to take only the food they intend to eat.

When thinking of what products to use, Rachael and her team considered durability. A new demountable wall unit, developed by the company DIRTT, will be covered in removable vinyl sheets. These sheets will show Auburn University and Greek-life history, but can also be changed to show seasonal topics, such as Black History Month. Although vinyl isn’t the most sustainable, the material allows the sheets to be reused, which in the long run is more sustainable than replacing the walls every time something new would be showcased.

One sustainable material used in the redesign is Interface carpets. Interface’s goal is to be zero waste. They’ll take any carpets, recycle them, and then produce new carpets made of recycled materials. Some of their carpets are made from discarded fishing nets recovered from impoverished, coastal communities. The company produces every material with the end of the product’s life in mind. They use recycled materials to reduce landfill impacts and to work towards their goal of ending their dependence on oil. Carpeting in Village Dining has now been replaced with carpets from this socially and environmentally responsible company.

Although the more obvious sustainability initiatives, like replacing the lights from halogen to LED, have been implemented into the redesign of Village Dining, the design of the winning team and the efforts of Rachael and Anna Ruth showcase what is beyond the obvious. The different elements in a sustainable design go beyond just materials, as a designer must consider durability, functionality, and atmosphere. Redesigning underutilized spaces keeps resources from being wasted; “green walls” are good for wellbeing; and experiential learning gives students an education beyond the classroom. So next time you’re in Village Dining, take a moment to appreciate the new design- it goes beyond what you can see.

 

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Auburn Foods: Charting a FRESH Course

Post contributed by Gwen Ward, Administrative Assistant, AU Campus Dining

Sustainability Compass Icon

At the beginning of a new year, we often envision a new, better course for our lives, and what better way to start charting our course than by checking a compass?  It not only reveals the direction we’re traveling, but also helps guide us to make the necessary adjustments to get where we want to be.  The Sustainability Compass is an effective guide to living in a socially responsible, environmentally respectful manner.  Tiger Dining’s Auburn Foods initiative offers you the opportunity to make more informed, sustainable choices when dining on campus.   This Spring, you’ll notice the Auburn Foods logo throughout campus, along with slogans like “Keep your friends close, and your food closer,” and “Stay Fresh, Live Healthy, Buy Local” but what exactly does this mean?  And how does this relate to Sustainability?

Auburn Foods Logo
Look for the Auburn Foods logo at venues around campus.

When you see the Auburn Foods logo, you know that these foods are FRESH.  Locally grown foods not only taste better, but they may actually be better for you.  In this article detailing 10 ways to get the most nutrition from your food, the number one strategy is to “Eat locally grown food soon after it’s been picked”:  10 Ways to Get the Most Nutrients from Your Food

Auburn Foods products are locally grown and sustainably produced – many of these items are grown right on our campus.  So not only are you eating the freshest, most flavorful food possible, you’re also providing research and learning opportunities for your fellow Auburn students.  Taste the freshness when you enjoy an 844-Burger.  The “844” is the Auburn University telephone prefix, and just like the phone prefix, these cows are found only on Auburn’s campus.  If you’re lightening up your food intake this year, try the fish tacos at API Trading Company.  The tilapia has been grown at the EW Shell Fisheries Center on North College St and is served within 72 hours of being harvested – fresh, nutritious, and flavorful!

Auburn Foods products provide the opportunity to participate in all “directions” of the Sustainability Compass.  N = Nature.  These foods are produced or grown locally and handled responsibly to ensure maximum nutrition, freshness, and flavor.  Research being conducted on campus may lead to replicable systems that can be used in urban areas or food deserts to provide a diet complete with both fresh vegetables and proteins. E = Economy.  Purchasing Auburn Foods items supports local farmers as well as your fellow students, providing fuel for our local economy in the form of food, funds, and farm support.  S = Society.  Sourcing foods locally enhances our sense of community as well as providing strength and nourishment to our neighborhoods. W = personal Wellbeing.  In January 2015, the Nielsen Group published the results of a global health and wellness survey Nielsen Group Health and Wellness Survey.  The survey revealed that “Consumers seek fresh, natural and minimally processed foods. Beneficial ingredients that help fight disease and promote good health are also important.”  There’s no question that whole foods, fresh foods that are minimally processed, make a significant impact on your health and wellbeing.

So get your bearings and set your course for a fresh, flavorful year with Auburn Foods. Watch for this symbol throughout campus and ensure you’re heading toward a fresh, healthy, wholesome year.

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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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Storms Can’t Stop Sustainability Picnic!

Post contributed by Hallie Nelson, Office of Sustainability Intern

This year’s Sustainability Picnic can be summed up pretty well by our Quote of the Week by Arthur Clarke, “All human plans [are] subject to ruthless revision by Nature, or Fate, or whatever one preferred to call the powers behind the Universe.”

A photo collage of Sustainability Picnic happenings.
Despite the rain, picnic-goers made the best of it with food, fun, games, & prizes.

After a long afternoon of setting up for the event, the picnic organizers were finally ready for students to arrive. All of the organizations had their tables set up perfectly and the band had started playing. Not even ten minutes into the picnic, a downpour of rain came. Organizations tried to salvage their flyers as students dashed to the food tent or Arboretum pavilion for shelter from the rain. Meanwhile, a few interns and I covered the band equipment with a tent to protect their equipment. As we huddled under the tent, we were wondering when the rain would stop and whether people would still come to the picnic after the storm was over.

Luckily, the storm only lasted about 15 minutes and then the sun came back out. After the rain, everyone emerged from underneath the food tent having loaded up on delicious food prepared by Tiger Dining during the rain. Soon after, the fun atmosphere of the picnic began to come back to life. Thunderstorms and water-damaged band equipment couldn’t stifle the crowd’s excitement.

A photo collage of door prize winners from the Sustainability Picnic.
A few of this year’s door prize winners!

The enthusiasm grew even more when the prize drawings began. A few lucky winners walked away with a new bike, new shoes, or a relaxing day of paddle boarding.

The rest of the picnic was filled with great conversations about sustainability initiatives happening at Auburn and how to get involved. I hope that the 200+ students who came stay connected with picnic groups to see all of the amazing things that will happen at Auburn this year to create a more sustainable campus. I know I came away energized, inspired, and ready to spend another year at Auburn creating a more sustainable campus for everyone.

Thanks to everyone who came with positive attitudes and excitement that couldn’t be dampened by the rain, and another big thank you to everyone that made the 2016 Sustainability Picnic possible, including our co-sponsors:

  • The Donald E. Davis Arboretum for a great location and help setting up.
  • Tiger Dining for providing delicious local and vegetarian-friendly food.
  • Waste Reduction and Recycling Department for helping us reduce our waste to less than 1 pound!
  • Academic Sustainability Programs for sponsoring some of the food costs, and spreading the word about the Minor in Sustainability Studies.
  • The Natural Resources Management Major for sponsoring some of the food costs and sharing details on their flexible degree.

We hope to see you all at next year’s picnic! In the meantime, enjoy viewing this year’s picnic photos.

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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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