Every year Concordia Dining Services hosts a Thanksgiving dinner. It usually takes place on Thursday during the second to last full week of school before Thanksgiving break. This year’s Thanksgiving Dinner was on Nov 10 from 4:30-7:30 p.m., featuring several great foods: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls, stuffing, lefse, pumpkin pie, and so much more!
The meal is not only open to students and faculty but also the Fargo/Moorhead community. Because of this, a lot more food is prepared.
“More food is needed and consequently more food is wasted,” said Dylan Piepho.
Piepho is a senior this year and has worked at Dining Services in a custodial position since his freshman year.
“On a typical night at closing, there’s a lot of leftovers at most every station,” said Piepho.
The issue of food waste is not isolated to this one night, there is always food being thrown out. But the issue gets worse when there is more food being prepared.
“Every year on Thanksgiving I have noticed an increase in the amount of food waste compared to standard operations largely as a result of having more students, workers, and family members present for holiday meals,” Piepho said.
The main issue here is students overserving themselves. Madison Wagner is a student manager in dining services. She oversees all the student workers and fills in whenever needed.
“I watch people and they take a lot of food on chicken nugget night,” Wagner said.
She mentioned that the cooks are trying to take account of what’s left, but it is hard to always get it right, sometimes they make too much, and sometimes they don’t make enough.
Concordia’s Sustainability Coordinator Gabrielle Lommel said, “It is easy to assume that because they make more food for this event, there must be a lot more waste. However, any good food service program strives to waste as little food as possible, for both environmental and economic reasons.”
As the Sustainability Coordinator, Lommel works directly with student interns, the Student Environmental Alliance, and the Concordia Outdoor Recreation club. She works with them on sustainability-related projects and initiatives. Lommel also serves on various committees. One of the projects that Lommel oversees is the Taste Not Waste 2.0 initiative.
Taste Not Waste is an initiative that began in 2016 with the goal of reducing food waste in Dining Services by 50% by 2020. The pandemic interfered with the data collection near the end of the study, but based on the first three years of the study, it is assumed that the goal was met.
“The last study that was conducted in 2019 showed that food waste had reduced by 38% from 2016 to 2019! We averaged a 12% decrease in food waste each fall throughout the campaign,” said Lommel.
Taste Not Waste is now being revamped by Lommel, Dr. Meredith Wagner, and Bryan Zamora Montero, and is aptly titled “Taste Not Waste 2.0.”
They are planning to measure again how much food is being wasted, but now they are shifting their focus towards educating students about their food waste through tabling in the atrium, being more active on social media, and creating a new organization.
“(We need to) get in the heads of students so they reduce how much food they take,” said Bryan Zamora Montero.
One of the biggest issues with food waste at Concordia has to do with students taking more than they are able to eat.
Zamora Montero is a student here at Concordia majoring in environmental studies with a concentration in sustainability which is how he came to be involved with this project. He mentioned that the new version of Taste Not Waste is about creating a visual for students to see the problem.
The current plan is to get the organization up and running by the end of spring semester, and launch the initiative in the fall of 2023.
“We need to recruit as many people as we can,” said Zamora Montero.
The larger issue at hand is getting the students on board. The cooks and Dining Services staff are taking steps to reduce food waste, now it is up to the students.