Sky: Food waste in Colorado needs more attention, plans of action

Nathan Sky

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Food is the great unifier that brings friends and family together for a meal and conversation. Whether that be in a house, around the kitchen table or at a restaurant, it’s easy to be thankful for the food in front of you. Yet it’s extremely common that a lot of the food prepared goes straight into the trash.


In a 2014 study done by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, it was found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants ends up being disposed of, where 14.3% is recycled and only 1.4% is donated. Many restaurants are adopting a mission to end food waste, and we can cooperate with this effort by being mindful with how much food we order and doing our part in being green with composting.

On campus, CSU hosts an annual food drive referred to as “Cans Around the Oval.”

Last year, I was working in the back of house for a restaurant in Old Town. I had never worked in the food industry before, and the experience was both new and exciting. While I was there, I couldn’t help but notice how much of the food going out came back and was dumped into the trash. It always left me wondering why more of this food couldn’t be repurposed and distributed to people who need it.

With all of this food waste, it’s astounding to think about how the United States Department of Agriculture estimated in 2016 that at least 41.2 million people live in food-insecure households. Food insecurity means these households lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. Considering this information, being able to lower those numbers by taking into account other options for food waste is possible. It just needs to be applied.

Students enjoy food from Braiden Dining Hall during late night on Halloween. (Collegian File Photo)

Here at Colorado State University, the Braiden dining hall informed me that they feed an estimated 2,050 students — roughly 100-300 for breakfast, 1,200 for lunch and 500-600 for dinner. With these numbers, staff member Rachel Waite mentioned how they prepare at least 3,000 portions for a whole day at Braiden alone.

Braiden’s dining hall already combats food waste by incorporating multiple strategies to reduce it, including composting, donating to food banks and giving back to CSU students through a service called Ram Recovery. Out of all of their strategies, composting is easily their dominant one.

“Everything else like pre-made sandwiches, leftover meat and beans are given away to the local food bank,” Waite said. Waite estimated that they give away 45-70% of what isn’t eaten by students to food banks. Everything else is up for grabs through Ram Recovery, where if enrolled in the program, a student can send a text to the dining hall asking for aid, and a leftover meal will be provided to the hungry student. 

It’s difficult to be mindful and combat food waste 100% of the time, and while most of the waste is out of our control, we can still make an impact on the issue. On campus, CSU hosts an annual food drive referred to as “Cans Around The Oval.” This is a great opportunity to contribute to the aid of those who are suffering from food insecurity.

Next time you are going to eat, be mindful of what you order and how much. The quickest way to prevent food waste is to eat all of your food, and if you don’t, take it with you and have it for an easy lunch the next day. We can all do our part by finishing our plate, being resourceful with donating extra food and getting our green on with composting.

Nathan Sky can be reached at or on Twitter @NathanSky97