​Wipe Out Waste Initiative produces reduction in food waste

GVL / Sara Carte
Grand Valley students throw away trash and food at Fresh Cafeteria on Oct. 2.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte Grand Valley students throw away trash and food at Fresh Cafeteria on Oct. 2.

Jess Hodge

With over 21,000 undergraduate students plus faculty and staff, Grand Valley State University has a lot of hungry mouths to feed.

So how was there a 31.8 percent decrease in food waste from the campus dining facilities in the fall semester of 2015? Both staff at campus dining and GVSU’s Office of Sustainability Practices attribute a majority of the success to a new initiative known as the Wipe Out Waste Initiative.

Chris Uhl, director of campus dining operations, said that campus dining fully implemented Wipe Out Waste in the fall semester and it had a significant impact on the results of food waste.

“Wipe out Waste is a comprehensive initiative,” Uhl explained. “(It) includes forecasting accuracy, ordering behavior, increased supplier accountability, recipe and portioning compliance and use of our waste-tracking tool.”

Uhl said that even though GVSU has had food waste programs in place for a while, this year was different.

“Campus dining has been practicing waste reduction measures for a few years,” Uhl said. “But this is the first year all locations (on campus) have been taking part in the initiative.”

There are 42 total food locations on the Allendale and Pew campuses. The Allendale Campus holds 35 of those dining facilities.

Campus dining works with the Office of Sustainability Practices on campus and coordinates with them through the Campus Sustainability Advisory Council (CSAC).

Yumiko Jakobcic, campus sustainability coordinator for GVSU, said they are thankful for the CSAC, which brings together faculty and staff from a wide variety of divisions on campus.

The CSAC was originally known as the Sustainability Advisory Board, but was changed to include ‘broader campus representation and coordination of planning and programming.’”

Jakobcic is also grateful for other groups that help promote ways to reduce food waste.

“We rely heavily on outreach and education efforts to ensure that all students are aware of the waste reduction opportunities at GVSU,” she explained. “We are grateful to have help from the Green Team and the Student Environmental Coalition, who help to provide outreach at campus dining locations, football games, and other zero-waste events.”

Uhl also appreciates the coordination and communication between the campus dining and campus sustainability offices.

“Campus dining has a nice partnership with the (Office of Sustainability),” he said. “Information is shared and campus dining has an appointed sustainability manager to help enhance communication.”

Among other staff members, Doug Wentworth, the director of auxiliary services, sits on the CSAC. He has been the director for four years and has worked on plenty of projects that relate to sustainability on campus.

“We are always looking for new ways to reduce food waste,” Wentworth said. “When we find them and can implement them, we will do so.”

Uhl agreed and said the task is ongoing.

“We will continue to monitor food waste and look for ways to reduce,” he said. “This is a task that never ends, the program is ongoing and campus dining will alter methods as it evolves.”