By Joseph Martinus Sanchez
In the midst of wild brush fires and an emergency drought declaration for our agriculturally-dependent state, the 2014 Sustainable Food Systems Team at UCLA will help alleviate the significant strain on water through reducing food waste at the University’s dining halls, while educating diners about the monumental effects of wasting our precious food.
In 2007, Waste Watchers, a team of zealous UCLA students embarked on an investigative journey that monitored food waste across the residential dinning halls on campus. As a solid building block, Waste Watchers was set in place for future students to expand upon for the growing population residing on campus. Waste Watchers was revisited in 2009 and delivered extraordinary data for the Housing and Hospitality Services to further use in menu planning, food procurement, and campaigning at one of the largest dinning halls. According to the 2009 report, “378.889 pounds of food was wasted each dinner period . . . an average of 2,148.333 people served . . . 0.176 pounds of food waste per person . . . that is equivalent to each person throwing away three slices of bread after every meal” (Waste Watchers, ART 2009).
Alarming? Well, let’s take it full circle and see how much water is needed for those three slices of bread that are scrapped every evening. One slice of bread requires 10 gallons of water for its production (usgs.gov). Here’s the math: three slices of bread equals 30 gallons of water; 2,148.333 people served dinner in one hall multiplied by 30 equals 64,449.9 gallons of water needed, wasted rather, in just one hall out of the five dining halls on campus. Now that’s alarming!
This year, the Sustainable Food Systems Team—Katie Pastor, Alice Wong, Gabrielle Ruxin, Hannah Doan, Maddy Routon, and myself, Joseph Martinus Sanchez—has many goals. One of the most exciting and data-driven goals is to revamp the successful Waste Watchers by conducting food waste audits across all of the University’s residential dinning halls, including the newest health-themed, sustainability-driven hall, Bruin Plate. The research conducted this year will deliver valuable results that expand on the past team’s efforts and contributions to the Action Research Team and Aliana Lungo-Shapiro, an experienced stakeholder and director from Housing and Hospitality Services. In addition, an important component this year will be to continue our efforts in advocating, outreaching and educating students about food waste and the detrimental effects it has on our environment as a whole.
As students, we understand our actions and efforts may seem minimal. However, together as teams and groups we aim to collectively contribute research to help our University, city, state, country, and planet, reach a more sustainable present and future.