Sold, Used, *Wasted: Food Waste and Related Implications at the University of Notre Dame

Anna Gorman

Project Objective

This project focuses on the college campus and the different ways other schools have fought the war against food waste thus far. This paper particularly focuses on Notre Dame’s efforts to reduce food waste, including signage, campaigns, and food preparation techniques.

Food Waste Facts:

  • Food waste is unsustainable.
  • Disposing of wasted food is extremely expensive. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste costs about 1.3 billion dollars to transport and dump in landfills each year and makes up the second largest component of all municipal waste.
  • Every year, roughly 50 million Americans struggle with food insecurity (“Students Fighting Food Waste,” 2012); the amount of food waste that the United States generates could potentially feed those 50 million individuals. 

Why the College Campus?

The answer to this question is that cafeteria-style dining poses a huge waste problem. According to a 2009 Food Waste Audit, “the average student wastes about 5 ounces of food per meal. That looks like 4 granola bars, a chicken breast, or a whole baked potato” (Moore, 2010). 

Specific Issues By Sector and How They Are Reacting:

Restaurants, grocery stores, households, and others mark the current sectors accounting for food waste. Each of these sectors have certain issues to deal with:

  • Households need to become more informed about the different purchasing and preservation techniques necessary to minimize food spoilage and useless leftovers. 
  • Restaurants need to stop buying food in bulk despite the fact that it is cheaper. Although they lack incentive to do this because customers will pay for their food regardless, it is an action necessary to the elimination of food waste. 
  • Grocery stores need to incorporate labels easily differentiating sell by and use by dates in their products. Because of the lack of this easy differentiation, customers are not aware of how long they can actually use their products. 


The efforts, statistics, and waste disposal methods of Notre Dame

1. The Efforts
In terms of food preparation techniques, Food Services makes sure that they prepare products in such a way that they eliminate needless scraps. They follow recipes correctly, follow cooking temperatures closely as to reduce shrinkage, take precautions to reduce leftovers, employ batch cooking, as well as have sustainability representatives to oversee these food waste elimination strategies and look for improvement opportunities. As well as conducting educational campaigns.

2. Statistics
A graph tracks the waste in the dining halls on the Notre Dame campus over the past few years. Once per semester, workers (as well as volunteers) take the trays from the return and calculate the leftovers.

3. Waste Disposal Methods

  • Food scraps from the main Food Services preparation area are sent to local farms for use as cattle feed. A 2008 statistic reported this number to be about 37,000 pounds (“Sustainable Food Model 2011,” 2011).
  • All leftover food from the dining hall serving areas is donated each night to two homeless shelters.
  • Leftovers on trays put through the tray return are processed through garbage disposals and move through a wastewater conveyance system to the municipal wastewater treatment plant. Here any solid waste is removed and used in agricultural applications.
  • Leftover oil and grease are reprocessed through an international oil reclamation company into reusable products

Ideas for Implementation: What More Can Notre Dame Do?

  • Increase the number of awareness posters. 
  • The Clean Plate Club; this club offers incentive in forms of recognition and reward if one cleans their plate. 
  • Sampling
  • Trayless Tuesdays; implementing the trayless method.
  • A La Carte Style dining