Composting,  Food,  Student Groups and Organizations,  Waste

(Sustainable) Food for Thought


Why are trays and trash cans absent in the NAU dining halls?

And what is this stunning machine pictured below? Both are indicators of how Dining Services is making leaps and bounds when it comes to sustainability.


One of two NAU SOMAT compost machines
It looks innocent enough, but this powerhouse of a machine, pulps, grinds and dehydrates every bit of food waste from the NAU dining halls preparing it to become compost.


How much do we waste?

Meal production, from planning to cleanup, can have big impacts on the environment. Estimates put food waste in America at 30-40%. That means ordering a pizza and immediately throwing away two delicious cheesy hot slices. Painful, no?

And there’s a resource-rich history behind each of those pizza slices. Energy, water, animal feed, fertilizer, pesticides, transportation – these are all parts of food production. By reducing food waste, we conserve those resources. In addition, wasted food decomposes in landfills releasing methane, a powerful heat-trapping gas that contributes to global warming.

NAU Dining Services employs several sustainable practices to help reduce food waste on campus and promote sustainability.


Sunizona Farms provides produce to NAU Dining Services
Sunizona Farms is one of many Arizona farms that NAU Dining Services sources its local produce.


Where does NAU source its produce?

During the past academic year Dining Services sourced 31% of its produce from Arizona farms reducing transportation miles and fuel.


Reducing food waste during meal prep:

Dining Services utilizes a tracking program called LeanPath which helps kitchen staff reduce food waste during food prep – for example: using vegetable trimmings for soup stock or using leftover ingredients in other recipes. In its first year, staff reduced food waste by 20% during meal prep.


Feed people, not landfills:

Through the Food Recovery Network student volunteers work with kitchen staff at the Hot Spot, Einstein’s, Starbucks and catering to package food that was not prepared butnot served during the lunch hour. They transport trays to local food kitchens. During the past academic year almost 9500 lbs. of food were donated to local food kitchens who in turn served it to Flagstaff’s most needy.


NAU Food Recovery Network volunteers package up food donations
NAU student volunteers package up food daily to be donated to local shelters as part of the Food Recovery Network


Go trayless:

Both campus dining halls not embrace trayless dining. This allows students to eat their fill but avoids the tendency to fill a tray with more food than can be consumed resulting in food waste.


Compost pile on south campus
A compost pile ‘seasons’ on south campus before being ready to be used in local landscaping.


How NAU campus compost is a win-win:

If you have eaten at either dining hall recently, you may have noticed there are no trashcans. This is because every food scrap that is not consumed is pulped, ground, dehydrated and turned into compost thanks to the two recently installed SOMAT machines.

After resting for a few months on south campus, this nutrient dense compost is ready for use both in campus landscaping and at local elementary schools. With the second SOMAT machine installed, NAU hopes to divert 200,000 lbs. of food waste from the landfill over next year and turn it into sweet, sweet compost.

A big round of applause to NAU Dining Services for their work towards making NAU sustainable. Check out Campus Dining’s website to learn about other programs they offer that contribute to both healthy people and a healthy planet.