Project Studying Food Waste to Improve Sustainability Efforts

Students enjoy a meal in the dining hall at Lebanon Valley College

The E.A.T. (Engage, Analyze, Transform) initiative aims to “use data-driven research to promote and assess the goals of ethical reasoning, intercultural competence, healthful living, and environmental sustainability,” on LVC’s campus. E.A.T. is comprised of student researchers and a faculty advisor, as well as the director of Metz Culinary Management. The initiative works on several projects each school year and Kevin Beaver ’18 is the lead researcher for the new food waste research project.

Beaver, a biochemistry & molecular biology and environmental science double major, decided to join the E.A.T. initiative to expand his research horizons and become more involved on campus. He decided that the current Metz Culinary Management Weigh the Waste project needed to be expanded to account for different food types and densities in order to determine where the bulk of LVC’s food waste is coming from each day. 

Part one of the two-part project will consist of a student survey to assess knowledge of sustainability ethics and LVC campus sustainability initiatives. Part two will involve the measurement of food waste from the Lehr and Phillips Dining Hall.

“We hope to see the overall food waste trends, and then attempt to address those trends through cooperation with Metz Culinary Management to try and reduce overall food waste,” Beaver said.

Beaver hopes that discovering the root of the food waste problem will lessen LVC’s economic and environmental footprint.

“I hope the project gets students to think about what they leave on their plate,” Beaver said. “We are not trying to shame excessive wasters, but rather encourage everyone to make better choices. Nobody is perfect, but if we all make an effort, small changes add up.”

Beaver is working with Dr. Robert Valgenti, chair of the religion and philosophy department and founder of E.A.T., to consider different technological solutions for tracking food waste that go beyond sorting and weighing. The E.A.T. food waste project will have little impact on the day-to-day lives of LVC students and the food waste data will remain anonymous. 

The pilot run of the project will begin soon and continue through the end of the spring semester, though Beaver hopes that another student researcher will continue it following his graduation.