Meatless Mondays? Going tray-less?
Whatever your opinion is on these controversial efforts, it is important to recognize all of the other ways that Valentine has been working to reduce waste and save energy. Some of the staff’s biggest efforts have in fact been happening behind the scenes, plotted in the bowels of Valentine Dining Hall.
Now in his seventh year at Val, Executive Chef Jeremy Roush continues to tirelessly work not only to keep Val running, but also constantly improving. Roush feels strongly about not wasting ingredients in his cooking, especially when it comes to meat. “Meat was a living being and an animal that gave its life to sustain life, and that deserves the utmost care and respect,” Roush said. In conjunction with student efforts, Roush has in recent years substantially reduced Valentine’s food waste.
To reduce waste, Roush and his team use advanced tracking software to adjust Valentine recipes to produce the exact amount, and not more, of food needed to feed Valentine’s visitors. The software uses historical records of how many students ate at Val on that date in past years, and how many students ate a particular food item, to make more or less batches of a specific recipe. The software also analyzes variables such as seasons, weather and if large school events are happening to further adjust recipes. Making less food has meant Roush is able to buy in smaller quantities, but more frequently and from fresher sources.
These changes have seriously reduced the amount of leftover food at the end of the day. In addition to the environmental benefits, buying fewer ingredients has saved a lot of money. Are you a fan of the new Tulsi tea at Val? Val was able to buy the new tea with leftover money in the budget from reducing food waste. Through the food-waste savings, Val has also been able to afford the Highland Farms milk and better bread.
However, while Val aims to achieve zero food waste, there are still small amounts of waste. So what happens to leftover foods? Food safety guidelines dictate whether leftover food can be repurposed within Val, donated to a shelter, or if it must be thrown away. According to the level of exposure to the public, some batches of food can be refrozen or put out again in Val. Otherwise, some food is donated to a shelter in Holyoke or local shelters in Amherst. Roush understands the importance of using less and giving more: “It’s upsetting and disheartening to me as a chef knowing that we have food security issues around us, probably a stone’s throw away and we have to work to impact that.”
However, due to lack of information on the capacity of different shelters in the area to receive donations and what specific type of food they need, Val does not donate as much food to local shelters as they would like. Val has a need for this information, and a potential student project could be to investigate the needs of local shelters in order to allow Val to match up leftover food they have with shelters able to receive that food.
In the future, Roush says that he hopes to both build greater connections with shelters in the area and continue to reduce Val’s food waste. While one can sometimes tire of going to Val every day, as you would any restaurant, we as a student body should collectively recognize their efforts at reducing waste and constantly striving to be not only a place for community, but also pushing us to be a better community: to take less, and to give more.