As of June, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa has begun its participation in the Food Waste Challenge, a program designed to diminish food waste on campus.
“UH Mānoa represents a large population of O‘ahu and diverting food waste from our campus would have a tremendous impact on the environment,” said Doorae Shin of the Hawai‘i Student Sustainability Coalition.
According to an EPA press release, food waste accounts for 25 percent of all material sent to landfills and incinerators — the most of any type of waste. The Sustainability Council, Sodexo and Food Services are working together to determine food waste baseline numbers and will commit to a minimum 5 percent decrease in the food waste designated for landfills.
“The Food Waste Challenge is a program started by the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] to divert as much pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste as possible,” Shin said.
After the current numbers of food waste are attained, WasteWise, a system of the EPA meant to help organizations reduce waste, will assist UH Mānoa in setting a specific goal of reduction to be achieved by 2014.
To meet reduction goals, resident dining facilities will continue with organizing “Weigh the Waste” campaigns to educate students on how to decrease food waste, as well as encourage waste reduction through various publicity venues.
“For the kitchens, we continue to batch cook and monitor customer counts and use historical data for food production to minimize food waste,” Sodexo General Manager Donna Ojiri said.
Decreasing food waste is an issue that Mānoa has already been examining. Currently, Sodexo donates to EcoFeed, which utilizes food waste to feed pigs on local farms, and Student Organic Farm Training, which creates compost used in the landscaping efforts around campus. Many campus vendors also regularly practice composting and donating unused food to homeless shelters.
Mānoa staff believes the Food Waste Challenge will breathe new life into the sustainability movement for students and help them become aware of food waste in particular.
Sodexo District Manager Marc Nakamoto said he hopes this will be an “educational and awareness” opportunity for students.
“This is an issue that each and every one of us can make a difference in,” Nakamoto said, “Whether it is recycling food waste, taking only what you can consume or donating to feed the hungry, every small action can make a big difference.”
Shin said students can talk to the vendors about where they buy their food and ask about the challenge.
“They can talk to their peers and make the issue of food waste known so we can begin to be mindful of the impacts we have as individuals,” Shin said.
A press conference was held on June 19 at Aloha Tower to publicize the participation of UH Mānoa, Kapiolani Community College and Hawai‘i Pacific University in the Challenge and to celebrate the state’s sustainability efforts as a whole.