Creative efforts by Dining Services led to reduced food waste and improved community relations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named UMass Dartmouth as the "College/University Partner of the Year" for the 2018 national WasteWise awards.
UMass Dartmouth’s Dining Services was recognized for a series of activities and achievements to increase the institution's sustainability efforts. In 2017, Dining Services led a team of interested students, the Facilities team, and the Campus Sustainability team to achieve success in reducing food waste.
EPA's WasteWise program encourages organizations and businesses to achieve sustainability in their practices and to reduce select industrial wastes. Participants in the program work to prevent and divert waste that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills or incinerated.
"For more than two decades, EPA's WasteWise program has helped organizations and businesses conserve resources and save money," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. "Our 2018 winners show that keeping valuable materials out of the trash is a win-win for their bottom lines and the environment."
The UMass Dartmouth Dining Services team utilizes EPA's "Food Recovery Hierarchy" in its effort to reduce food waste. The team begins with the proper management of purchasing and food production to minimize leftovers. Dining Services also donates unsold, prepared packaged foods weekly during the school year to local liturgical ministries serving the homeless. In 2017, Dining Services unveiled a new program called Meals with Dignity, in which student volunteers work with the chef to package meals made with wholesome, leftover food from the dining hall on a biweekly basis and to deliver meals to the on-campus food pantry. The recipients of the surplus food are very enthusiastic about the two efforts, which have significantly helped fight local food insecurity. The donation programs are the most impactful efforts on campus, as they are the most local.
"Working collaboratively with students and with other departments within the University has helped us to make successful strides in our sustainability achievements on campus," said Steven O'Riley, Chartwells Dining, Resident District Manager at UMass Dartmouth.
Nationwide, the efforts by UMASS Dartmouth and the other nine national awardees collectively prevented and diverted over 356,000 tons of waste from entering landfills and saved the organizations over $19.6 million in avoided landfill fees.
"EPA New England is proud to recognize UMass Dartmouth for their leadership in sustainability, waste reduction and diversion, and environmental stewardship," said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro. "Sustainability-focused organizations help to increase awareness and knowledge about waste issues, and they provide a great example for other organizations to improve their practices and help improve our environment."