In November 2016, when Dr. Joan Kopperud, professor of English, and Dr. Meredith Wagner, chair/associate professor of nutrition, dietetics, and exercise science, proposed reducing waste in Anderson by 50% by 2020, it seemed like an unachievable goal. But students, faculty, and staff responded by reaching a 38% reduction before the pandemic altered things. Had the regular pattern continued – with an average reduction of 12% each fall – the 50% mark would have been hit on time.
The campus community celebrated the reduction in food waste with Best of DS Week and acknowledging the upcoming expansion of the Green-to-Go program. Dining Services offered campus favorites for the menu all week and an entire week of Maroon and Gold lunches (discounted) for faculty and staff.
A campuswide survey determined the favorites to be included during Best of DS Week. Walking tacos, mini donuts, fudge-stripe cookie salad, French toast sticks, puppy chow, pulled pork sandwich, and smoked BBQ ribs were just a few of the offerings.
The program to reduce food waste started more than four years ago when students in Kopperud’s IWC class partnered with the Food in the World Inquiry class to participate in a plate waste study in Anderson Commons as part of their field research assignment. They were shocked to learn that almost 10,000 pounds of edible food was discarded every month in Anderson, costing thousands of dollars annually and contributing to climate change.
Kopperud’s students at the time said, “You have to do something about this problem” to which she replied, “YOU have to do something about this problem if you want things to change” and they did.
“More than four years later, the Concordia community, largely led by students’ efforts through the Taste Not Waste initiative, substantially reduced plate waste in Anderson,” Kopperud said. “I had confidence then – and I still do today – that Concordia students can make a significant difference in reducing food waste, a crisis that’s solvable with increased mindfulness about our daily food practices, not only in Anderson, but I also hope students will continue to practice habits of mindfulness as they responsibly engage with the world throughout their lives.”
With the changes to Anderson in the midst of the impact of COVID-19 during the 2020-21 academic year, the college was forced to suspend plate waste data collection.
Jonathan Bloom, journalist, consultant, and thought leader on the topic of food waste, spoke at the 2020 symposium and said, “No other American college can match Concordia’s campuswide success in fighting food waste. The school is on track to reach its ambitious goal largely due to strong leadership and widespread campus buy-in. I’ve been so impressed with Concordia’s vision and resolve in achieving this spectacular success. Next up – replicating their accomplishment at every American college.”
Next up for Concordia is expanding the Green-to-Go program to cut down on single-use containers when patrons take their meals to-go. The Green-to-Go containers are reusable. You can purchase them for $5 and you bring a container back each time you go through the line. When patrons no longer need their containers they can be brought back and their $5 deposit will be refunded.
Kelly Lorenz ’23 is the Taste Not Waste intern and was involved in planning the celebration.
“I’m really proud of the work we have done to reduce food waste on campus and excited to see what else we can do in the future,” Lorenz said.