New CMC Food Club reducing campus waste |

New CMC Food Club reducing campus waste

Megan Walker, Robyn Washburn, Elena Luker, Cameron Poole and Brittani West pose after the first CMC Food Club food recovery in March at the closing of the dining hall before spring break.
Courtesy Photo

— A Food Club formed earlier this year at Colorado Mountain College is impacting the school’s amount of food waste and raising awareness about food sustainability among students and staff.

Founded in March, the club is an umbrella organization for two local chapters of nationwide projects, Real Food Challenge and Food Recovery Network.

The goal of the club is to follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, which focuses on reducing food waste.

The hierarchy prioritizes reducing the amount of surplus food generated, followed by donating extra food to hungry people, using food scraps for animal feed, using waste oils for industrial uses and finally composting what’s left over rather than putting it into a landfill.

The Food Club, in partnership with CMC food provider Sodexo, is successfully employing all the methods of the hierarchy within the school as of this fall.

“Not very many colleges or food restaurants are doing this,” said Cameron Poole, a recent sustainability studies graduate who formed the campus chapter of the Food Recovery Network as part of her capstone last school year.

As an administrative assistant for Sodexo, Poole was able to act as a conduit between the club and Sodexo, she said.

Poole is also a western region representative for Sodexo’s sustainability committee, and she said the company is supportive of the Food Club’s efforts, which have included training and supporting staff to get the new practices in place.

To follow the hierarchy, excess trays of food not used during campus meals are donated to Lift-Up of Routt County and SK8 Church.

As of early December, volunteers affiliated with the Food Club have helped deliver more than 2,000 pounds of food to the nonprofit partners.

Food scraps generated during meal prep are donated to Yampa Valley Farms for pig feed, cooking oil is recycled through Boulder-based ClearEcos for biofuel and composting takes place through Twin Enviro.

Reducing the amount of food generated can be tricky because Sodexo is expected to have meals prepared and available during the entirety of meal periods, and there is no guarantee how many students will eat during a given meal.

To help educate students about food waste, the club has held two “Weigh the Waste” events, where food thrown out by students during a meal is recovered and artistically displayed — but not used for consumption — the following day, to illustrate the amount of waste generated.

“We are trying to raise awareness in a fun, positive way,” Poole said.

The dining area uses batch cooking to reduce waste, and students are encouraged to consider picking up small portions and returning for seconds rather than piling a plate too high and potentially throwing away some of the food.

The club is planning a third Weight the Waste event this spring and is also seeking volunteers to help deliver excess food to local nonprofits.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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