Tasty Waste Lunch helps educate UConn community about food waste

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Dining Services had anticipated being able to feed 600 people but ended up feeding 800. There was no food left at the end of the event, Landolphi said. (Josh Stanavage/The Daily Campus)

Wednesday’s Tasty Waste Lunch was a “huge success” and a great learning opportunity for the UConn community, University of Connecticut Culinary Operations Manager Rob Landolphi said.

“I think it was just a huge success,” Landolphi said. “What’s nice about the feedback we got was that it wasn’t just students there, it was the community. It was people who work at the university. It was professors, people from so many different departments.”

Dining Services had anticipated being able to feed 600 people but ended up feeding 800. There was no food left at the end of the event, Landolphi said.

“I think people were really excited about the event and they loved the dishes that we served,” Landolphi said. “It was a cold day so serving pot pie is the way to go.”

All the ingredients used to make the dishes came from discarded grocery store products. Grocery stores will often freeze products that are about to reach their expiration date and send it to Foodshare, a regional foodbank in West Hartford, Landolphi said.

“We worked with Foodshare to gather the food from them and they had some overages… which we took off their hands,” Landolphi said.

Landolphi said Dining Services also coordinated with bakeries and grocery stores to gather some of their day-old bread.

A study published Wednesday by a group of researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Universities of Vermont and New Hampshire found that Americans waste 30 percent of the daily calories available for consumption. This translates to 30 million acres of cropland being used to grow food that goes to waste.

“There are so many people that go hungry in this country and I honestly think we can make a difference if we teach people to be a little more conscientious when it comes to their food purchases and even their eating themselves, how much they put on their plate,” Landolphi said.

The goal of the event was to get students and others who attended to think about their food buying and eating habits, Landolphi said.

“What we’re trying to do is… educate the students,” Landolphi said. “When they start buying all that food and putting it in their refrigerator, it’s important (that they’re) not overbuying, that they’re being creative with what they buy at the grocery store so they can make dishes to actually use 100 percent of what you buy.”  

In past years, Dining Services has held a cookout which students had to pay for. This year, the lunch was free. Students had to go around to the vendors and groups set up along Fairfield Way and get stamps on their “passport” which they could then show to receive their meal, Landolphi said.

“It was an opportunity for us to get students to talk to more vendors, to be educated about (things like) solar power,” Landolphi said. “The vendors were really happy because it was a lot busier at their actual stations which was great.”

Landolphi said Dining Services will look to continue to teach students about food waste focusing on “plate waste,” or the waste produced from uneaten food one puts on the plate.

“I think that’s really important,” Landolphi said. “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”

Landolphi said the Tasty Waste Lunch is just one example of a larger trend of consciousness-raising initiatives by Dining Services.

“I think this is just the beginning of a long series of programs,” Landolphi said.


Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anna.aldrich@uconn.edu. She tweets @ZarraAnna.

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