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Dining on campus aims for less waste

Dining Services has been working to make the Ref and Gorecki, the highest traffic dining centers on campus, more sustainable.

Over the past few years, changes such as eliminating trays and using more locally-grown foods have made a difference both on campus and in the community.

Since Gorecki went trayless two years ago, food waste has been reduced by almost fifty percent. An impressive statistic, and it is not just consumable food waste being reduced.

“That amount is not all edible, it includes any food waste, skins, ends of produce…all waste from the back of the house, and from the trays,” said Kim Poganski, Director of Culinary Services at CSB.

Savings in water, energy, and labor must also be considered when thinking of all the trays not used every day that Gorecki is open.

The Ref is also moderating tray usage, though not ready to make the transition of eliminating trays quite yet. Community and campus-wide support is being built in beginning the process of going trayless at SJU.

There are also no longer individual napkin holders on each table at Gorecki. This is intended to cut down on the amount of napkins wasted and to reduce the amount of labor to refill and clean. Napkins are still readily available in strategically planned locations. The Ref is conducting their own tests this fall in order to determine the fate of napkin holders on their tables.

Both the Ref and Gorecki have also made efforts to buy food locally when possible.

“The bigger goal is the reduction of food miles and to keep increasing the amount of local foods we buy,” said David Schoenberg, Director of Dining Services at SJU. Using food that is less processed is a goal in addition to using more scratch items made to order through local vendors.

Dealing with food waste is a major concern on both campuses as well. Gorecki recently hired a menu manager, who specializes in generating data that estimates the amount of food needed for each station in order to accurately reduce waste. The Ref also has an interesting strategy to reduce the amount of food wasted. Food that cannot be used is sent to a nearby pig farm where it is made into pig feed. Plans are also being made for a future collaboration through a community kitchen program. Any food that is good but cannot be reused will be donated to the community in order to feed those in need.

Future plans are being made to further sustainability. Building and developing greenhouses for more fresh produce in the dining centers is a big part of that agenda, as well as working with nearby physical plants to utilize energy resources.

“We are part of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University’s effort…the dining service is part of that bigger picture when it comes to doing our part for sustainability,” Schoenberg said.