Wasted Food Reduction Across the Hierarchy at UMass Amherst

By Kevin Pink, Marketing & Development Assistant

EPA Food Recovery HierarchyIt’s no secret that wasted food is a big issue in America. According to the USDA, 30- 40% of food produced in this country goes uneaten every year. In 2010, this amounted to 133 billion pounds of food, worth $161 billion. This wasted food doesn’t go to the American households classified as food insecure (12.3% of American households in 2016), but instead often ends up in landfills, where it creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Colleges and universities serve thousands of meals daily, and thus have the potential to produce a significant amount of wasted food. UMass Dining Services is the largest college dining services operation in the nation, serving 45,000 meals daily or 5.5 million meals per year. UMass takes a concerted approach to reducing wasted food along the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Hierarchy.

So how is UMass addressing the Food Recovery Hierarchy? Here are a few examples!

Source Reduction: Reduce the volume of surplus food generated.

  • Utilizing LeanPath (a food waste reduction technology) to track and analyze the type and amount of waste generated in real-time, which helps in planning future purchasing and meal planning.
  • Peeling and trimming food in new ways to reduce the amount of nutrition that is wasted. Reexamining whether certain items even need to be peeled or trimmed, or can be served intact.
  • Repurposing food scraps to enhance flavor in other meals, or create stocks and soup bases, eliminating the need to purchase those products commercially.
  • Instituting “just-in-time” cooking stations which prepare meals when the customer orders them as opposed to in advance, reducing overproduction.

Feed Hungry People: Donate extra food to food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters.

  • Donating surplus food to Craig’s Doors, a homeless shelter in Amherst, through the Food Recovery Network. Approximately 100-200 pounds of food is donated weekly.

Composting: Create a nutrient-rich soil amendment

  • Diverting 1,200 tons of food scraps per year to Martin’s Farm, where it is composted. This is the equivalent of 25 city buses, filled top to bottom, end to end.

In implementing these waste diversion strategies, UMass Dining Services has not just created efficiencies in their planning and food preparation, donated food to hungry people, and helped recover nutrients from composted food. In the process, they have reduced their food waste by about 30%, saving approximately $750,000 over the last three years.

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts, a recycling assistance program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and delivered by the Center for EcoTechnology, recently produced a case study of UMass Amherst’s program at work. Watch the video case study below to learn more about how UMass Dining Services is reducing wasted food, saving money, and having a positive impact in western Massachusetts.



If you are a business or institution that is interested in diverting your wasted food, we can help! Contact the RecyclingWorks MA hotline today at 888.254.5525 or email info@recyclingworksma.com. We will get you started with free technical assistance and resources.

The Center for EcoTechnology helps people and business save energy and reduce waste. We make green make sense.

Leave a comment


Email(will not be published)*


Your comment*

Submit Comment

Next Events
* indicates required