Northwestern University Donates Unclaimed Meals as Students Self-Quarantine

The global COVID-19 pandemic has created disruptions to our food supply chain that resulted in instances of increased food waste, all during a time when many people are struggling with unemployment, medical bills and other unforeseen costs that could exacerbate food insecurity–a lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

So case studies of the recovery of unused food being diverted to feed hungry people are even more welcome and inspiring now, though they’re always reason for celebration, of course. One such example involves Northwestern University and the Compass Group, which is the company in charge of food preparation for Northwestern dining halls.

As reported for “Northwestern Now” on January 15, 2021 by Stephen Lewis:

During Northwestern’s Wildcat Wellness period, students were required to self-quarantine in their residence hall rooms. During this time, 2,400 residential students — with a meal plan — were delivered lunch and dinner; that;’ approximately 66,000 delivered meals over two weeks. But unlike ordering take-out from your favorite neighborhood restaurant, hundreds of these boxed, hot meals were left unclaimed and untouched.

“Over five hundred meals were returned, and we knew that if this was going to continue, this would be a really big problem. So, I put a call out to a bunch of non-profits around the city and people came together to start a massive food recovery effort,” said Sarah Levesque, the Sustainability Director for Compass Group, the company in charge of preparing meals for Northwestern dining halls.

Sixty non-profit organizations quickly responded to the urgent call. During the two-week Wildcat Wellness period, twice a day, dozens of volunteers collected the uneaten meals to deliver to those in need. Give-N-Kind, a non-profit started by Northwestern alumnus, Emily Petway (’02) helped coordinate the effort to recover meals that were not distributed…

Nearly 10,000 meals are expected to be donated by the time the Wildcat Wellness period ends on Jan. 17. Once normal meal services resume in dining halls across campus, unused food will still not go to waste. Campus Kitchen, the student-led volunteer organization, is currently on pause while students are self-quarantining. When quarantine is over, the organization will continue to collect excess food to package and deliver to low-income Evanston residents for free.’

Way to go, Wildcats!

Read the full story here.

Learn More

Food Waste and Covid-19: Impacts along the Supply Chain

GiveNKind

Fight2Feed

Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University

Northwestern releases comprehensive integrated solid waste management plan

Northwestern Dining (in particular, see the “Wellness and Sustainability” section of the web site)

 

UW-Green Bay Uses Campus Composter to Divert Food Waste from Landfill

As reported by WBAY.com, an Earth Flow composting system, which has been use on the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UW-Green Bay) campus since October 2020, has thus far helped the university divert about 15,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill. The student government bought the composter using money from the campus sustainability fund.

Read the full story and watch the video at https://www.wbay.com/2020/11/27/uw-green-bay-new-campus-composter-diverts-thousands-of-pounds-of-food-waste-from-landfills/,

According to the report, food scraps are collected in five-gallon buckets from the campus foodservice operations. Studen workers add the scraps to the composter, along with two buckets of wood chips for each bucket of food scraps. The wood chips are sourced from local tree-trimming operations. When completed the compost is used in various campus gardens, and may ultimately be made available to the public.

Learn more about Earth Flow Composting Systems at https://compostingtechnology.com/in-vessel-composting-systems/earth-flow-custom-vessel/.

View photos of the composting system installation at Inside UW-Green Bay News: https://news.uwgb.edu/featured/go-green/10/06/photos-earth-flow-composter-installed/.

Note that links to products or services are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by the author, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Universities Create Biodiesel from Waste Cooking Oil

A recent update from Engineers for a Sustainable World on student projects from 2018 included a note on the University of British Columbia Campus Biodiesel project. See https://www.eswglobal.org/database. According to that synopsis, “The campus biodiesel project seeks to produce biodiesel from waste cooking oil produced on UBC campus. Cooking oil can be collected from the dining halls of first year residence, in partnership with UBC food services. ESW has access to use a reactor system in the Chemical and Biological Engineering building with the capacity to produce 60 L batches. There is also a fuel dispensing system in the equipment yard of the building. The goal of the project is to produce batches of biodiesel with reliable quality to be used by diesel powered vehicles in fleet services.”

More information on the UBC campus biodiesel production project can be found on the Engineers for a Sustainable World UBC web site at http://blogs.ubc.ca/sustainabilityclub/biodiesel-project/.

This project is similar to the Illinois Biodiesel Initiative (IBI), which evolved from an Engineers Without Borders project on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. See https://icap.sustainability.illinois.edu/project/illinois-biodiesel-initiative-ibi and http://biodiesel.illinois.edu/ for further information on that project.

Similar projects have also been coordinated with high school students converting waste cooking oil from K-12 school food service operations for use in district school buses. See the archived suggested activity “Divert or create biodiesel from waste cooking oil” document from the original Green Lunchroom Challenge K-12 pledge program for more information and inspiration for incorporating such an activity, or information about it, into K-12 lesson plans.

Has your college, university, or high school/school district diverted used cooking oil to fuel in a similar fashion? Consider sharing a link to a site describing your efforts or a brief description of your project in the comments section of this post.