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minimizing foodwaste

A recent question from alumna Danie Martin (YR37/2012, Canada-NB) about the College’s food waste served as a timely reminder about re-exploring the UWC values of personal responsibility and integrity, respect for the environment and action and personal example.

Nearly 60 per cent of food produced in Canada goes to waste and the average kitchen throws out hundreds of dollars’ worth of food every year, a recent study, commissioned by Toronto-based group Second Harvest, finds. These numbers become even more alarming considering that 1 in 8 Canadian households, amounting to more than 4 million Canadians — including 1.15 million children — struggle to put food on the table. Not to mention that nearly 11 per cent of the world population faced chronic undernourishment in 2017.

Food waste not only represents millions of dollars wasted through overproduction and consumer waste, it is also a significant drain on essential resources like clean water and contributes to the unnecessary use of harmful agents such as pesticides and fertilizers as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.

One of the ways the College reduces its environmental impact is by meticulously assessing and reducing food waste where possible.  

“It all starts with how we manage our resources in the kitchen and ends with personal responsibility,” says Luke Taylor, Food Service Director at Aramark, Pearson’s one-stop food and facility services provider.

Via weighing stations, food waste from the consumer (student, faculty, staff and any campus community member) is tracked daily, as well as production and storage waste. The results are entered into a software program and logged against the daily menu. The menu and the food production are then adjusted for the next cycle to align with the usage. If excess or unwanted waste is noticeable, the menu item may be removed.

“We noticed recently, for example, that tortilla shells on an enchilada have been discarded dis-proportionally, but the filling had been eaten. This menu item will have been removed or changed for the next menu cycle,” Luke adds.

The goal of the kitchen is to reduce as much food waste as possible and it all starts before the food is even in the kitchen. Aramark has a box of tools at hand to do so: forecasting, ordering, receiving, storage, production, portioning and leftovers, just to name a few.

All Aramark employees are trained in the production and waste reduction process and are responsible for it on a daily basis.

In preparation for a meal, production worksheets and standard recipes are adjusted for the forecasted consumer counts, while standard recipes ensure consistent amounts of ingredients. During production the food is labeled, logged on production worksheets, checked for quality and taste and moved to appropriate storage. The food is then served according to the right portion size and temperature and again logged on the worksheets. After a meal period, the results are logged in the food production system to inform changes to the next menu cycle and the waste bin is measured.

“If all these steps are followed, the food waste is minimal and even non-existent sometimes,” describes Chef Luke. “It’s a team effort here at Pearson and we do very well.

“I have put food waste and monitoring programs in place at several universities and colleges around Canada and, in comparison, Pearson is on another level as far as personal responsibility and awareness are concerned.”

“Some of our students come from regions of extreme conflict, hunger and instability”, adds Désirée McGraw, President and Head of College at Pearson College UWC. “The well-being and wholesome nourishment of the young people in our care is of the utmost importance to the College.

“We pay close attention to the resources we spend and strive to minimize the environmental impact we have. I feel privileged that we are able to offer our community access to a variety of meals, supporting dietary restrictions and opportunities to help grow some of the foods we consume.”