UNC wins awards for food sustainability

Monday, November 23, 2015
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UNC is turning food waste into compost

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Rams Head Dining Hall is one of the central hubs on the Carolina campus. Students and staff crowd the lines and the booths for a quick bite between classes.

Carolina Dining serves more than 10,000 meals daily and with all of the food comes a lot of waste.

"When you are in the food business, you are just going to inevitably encounter some kind of food waste," said Brandon Thomas, Carolina Dining Services spokesperson.

He and his team know that leftover food continues to clog up our area landfills, but they have been building a solution for the past 15 years.

UNC-Chapel Hill has collected 12 million pounds of compost since the program began, and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

UNC has already received two awards for food sustainability this year, and their initiative is now number one in the nation. Earlier this year they took part in a Feeding the 5000 meal, where they sourced 11,000 pounds of food and made it into stew, toast, and cobbler.

They ended up giving away more than 9,000 meals in all.

"This is not something that we have been mandated to do. This is something that we are doing because we have really motivated employees and a student body that wants to see this taking place on campus," Thomas explained.

The leftover food is put onto conveyor belts where it is sorted by staff members. It's then placed in 65 gallon bins to be picked up and composted by an outside company. And it doesn't stop there.

"Food that hasn't made it out to the serving line yet, prepared food, we donate about 200 pounds of prepared food to the interfaith council each week," said Thomas.

It's something that makes students proud.

"I'm really glad we are trying to help other people with the whole sustainable thing," freshman Claire Paluszak described. "It makes me feel a little better about being a little wasteful, since we are putting it to a good cause."

Student, Jacob Lebe, says the initiative makes him think about wasting so much. "If I know I'm not going to finish it, I might think about what I'm going to do with it better than that."

And Thomas believes it's something we should all think about. "Food waste is a global issue. It's definitely not just a university issue or a North Carolina issue, it's not even a United States issue. One number I have heard is that globally if you can reduce food waste, that can feed 3 billion people."

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