The University of Wisconsin-Madison has partnered with Leanpath in a new effort to reduce campus food waste from Rheta's Market by 50 percent.
The new food waste prevention work was funded through the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability's Green Fund program, which supports student-driven projects that address the environmental footprint, social impact, and operating costs of campus facilities. A team of students led by Morgan Barlin '22 applied for funding and coordinated stakeholder support for the project. Student staff and volunteers continue to be involved in tracking food waste, analyzing data, and communicating results to diners.
Leanpath's food waste tracking devices allow high-production foodservice operations to track their food waste, understanding what exactly is being wasted and why. Leanpath's analytics platform identifies high-impact opportunities for food waste reduction and sets automated goals to break a large food waste problem into manageable wins. On average, kitchens cut their food waste in half with Leanpath, leading to significant financial and environmental savings.
UW-Madison's investment in Leanpath is part of its campus-wide Zero Waste Initiative, which seeks to reduce food waste and then to divert remaining waste from the landfill. University Housing serves roughly 2.8 million meals per year from six all-you-care-to-eat-style dining markets and other smaller food outlets.
UW-Madison Director of Dining and Culinary Services Peter Testory said focusing on reducing food waste is part of operating a responsible foodservice program.
"In our business we are making decisions and purchases with student funds," he explained. "It is extremely important to myself and the team that we are making sound decisions, and being good stewards of our available resources. This includes doing what we can to reduce food waste, which in turn makes us more efficient and reduces costs."
The campus expects sustainability benefits as well, according to Dining and Culinary Services Sustainability Coordinator Malorie Garbe.
"We know that sources like Project Drawdown [a research organization that ranks the impact of different climate change solutions] have listed reducing food waste as the number one action we can take to lower our carbon footprint. Leanpath offers us tangible steps forward in reducing food waste, engaging foodservice staff as agents of change in the solutions, and clearly communicating our goals and progress to consumers."
Targeting food waste from the source is a crucial component in UW-Madison's effort to achieve its sustainability goals.
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