In the category of catering to liberal campus interests, Bon Appetit is having a monster year. Not only is it in the final round of PETA2’s vegetarian contest, but the dining organization is now working with the student environmental groups Environmental Organizers Network (EON) and the Food Salvage Program in an effort to go green.
EON, which is a coalition of environmental groups, is working on a campaign to turn food thrown away at Usdan into compost. During two previous Wednesdays, EON set up compost bins in which students can now throw away their uneaten food.
Emilie Knight ’10, who spearheaded the compost program, said the student body has not been very receptive to the initiative thus far. According to Knight, students have been depositing non-compostable items such as meat, dairy and other high-fat foods in the compost bin.
“It’s tough when you’re received poorly by the student body for something that’s simple and only does good,” she said.
Students can also turn unwanted food into compost by using the several “green machines” located around campus. Compostable food can be tossed inside these large green barrels, which then spin to mix up its contents. All compost that EON collects is then sent to the student-run Long Lane Farms where it is used as fertilizer.
Additionally, EON is planning to collect waste from students at the Marketplace every day next week and record the amount. Then, in collaboration with Bon Appétit, EON will collect waste again on the week before winter break. On that week, students will have to carry plates to the dining hall without trays, in hopes of discouraging students from taking more food than they need. EON will compare the statistics for both weeks and see if the “trayless” week reduced waste. Based on those numbers, Bon Appetit may remove trays permanently.
The “trayless” program is in place at many colleges and universities, and has been tried experimentally at Wesleyan in the past. According to a nation-wide study conducted by ARAMARK Higher Education, which measured food waste from over 186,000 meals at over 25 colleges and universities, students wasted 25 to 30 percent less without trays.
The Food Salvage Program is another group working to minimize the amount of food that is wasted. However, this program focuses on food that has not yet been eaten. Every day, uneaten food at the Marketplace is frozen and stored away. On Friday, student volunteers from the Food Salvage Program collect the food for “Eddy Shelter,” a shelter for the homeless.
“Every Friday at 6 p.m. I would get volunteers to take the food over from Usdan to the shelter,” said Julie Huang ’10, an active volunteer for the Food Salvage Program. “They would get about seven pans of food for the week.”
Huang said she had trouble starting the program because of liability concerns Bon Appetit had.
“It took me a long time to get this thing started,” Huang said. “Since Bon Appétit is a corporation, they’re afraid of being sued. I had to write up a waiver and get Eddy Shelter to sign it so that there was no way for Bon Appétit to get in trouble.”
The liability concerns of Bon Appétit stem from safety issues. During the period when the program was seeking approval, Manfred Rehm, a health inspector for the City of Middletown, outlined the safety concerns for such a program.
“There are restrictions involving maintaining safe temperatures while in transit, or the length of time outside of safe holding temperatures before consumption,” Rehm wrote in an e-mail to a Michelle Myers-Brown, the director of Usdan. “Bon Appétit would be able to train the student volunteers on safe food handling practices, also a requirement.”
Another green initiative that Bon Appetit is undertaking is reducing the amount of paper cups used at cafes on campus.
“The university has approached us and asked us to come up with a reusable coffee mug system,” said Michael Strumpf, the district manager of Bon Appetit. “A portable coffee mug with a Wesleyan logo will be sold, and when brought to ’U café’ or Pi café, the cup of coffee will be discounted. We’re going to discount it beyond the cost of the paper. It’s going to be an attractive financial incentive.”
Knight said that Bon Appétit is moving in the right direction.
“I think they’re a step ahead of a lot of other food servicing companies,” Knight said. “No one’s perfect but they definitely make a lot of effort.”