GAITHERSBURG, Md., May 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than two years of dedicated work and collaboration between student groups and the Sodexo food service team at Northern Arizona University (NAU) has resulted in the development of a new way to reduce food waste on campus. Working hand-in-hand with NAU Campus Dining staff, students led an initiative to research and acquire four new machines needed to process the volume of material generated by this massive operation. These machines grind and then dehydrate all of the food waste from the main resident dining hall and prep kitchen which is ultimately composted, providing valuable soil amendment for campus landscaping.
Students audited the food that people threw away in the dining halls during "Weigh the Waste" events and used that information to successfully prepare a Green Fund proposal to purchase the machines to recover food from the trash. The Sodexo Campus Dining staff redirects food from the plates students send to the dish return and pre-consumer kitchen trim into the system. In a typical day 1,000 pounds of the pulped and dehydrated material is picked up from the dining hall along with 300 to 500 additional pounds of fruit and vegetable trimmings and coffee grounds from the other dining services locations on campus - averaging 3.25 tons of compostable material an academic week and doubling the dining hall's output of compostable materials.
The NAU Composting Program currently amends 100,000 - 150,000 pounds of materials annually including NAU green waste from landscaping. Housed on campus the compost program was able to expand their space to accommodate the increase in material through this new initiative and will have the NAU Soils and Biology course study the final product and overall process as part of their curriculum.
"The new system is an exciting venture for NAU and Sodexo as we work together to continually strive for advances in the sustainability of our dining operations," said Thomas Eberly, Executive Director, Campus Services and Activities. "We hope that this system will pave the way for further waste reduction initiatives by working with students to create solutions that help meet university goals. And, if in the process, we can provide a case study for other universities looking to invest in similar systems, we've accomplished significant progress in our journey toward creating a culture of sustainability at NAU and beyond."
Other campus waste reduction initiatives include participation in the EPA's Food Recovery Challenge. Through this program, Sodexo employees develop better practices to avoid overproduction and spoilage through, menu planning as well as staff training to composting vegetable and fruit trimmings.
Additionally, the Sodexo team at NAU encourages customers to waste less with programs like trayless dining, which limits the tendency of customers to take more food than they can eat, and "Weigh the Waste" events that engage customers by collecting their cumulative food waste on a given day and weighing it.
NAU has been an active chapter of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), a student-run volunteer force that donates perishable food to local food banks since 2014. This year, the NAU network donated over 7,000 pounds of food to those in need.
Sodexo delivers more than 100 services across North America that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life. The global Fortune 500 company is a leader in delivering sustainable, integrated facilities management and foodservice operations. Learn more at Sodexo Insights.
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