April 6, 2016 | Unused food and food waste from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ (UAMS) cafeteria is no longer destined for the landfill thanks to a food recycling program that creates an eco-friendly alternative.
Since October, UAMS has donated 12 tons of food waste to Organix, a national food recycling organization that produces animal feed. It has also donated about 100 servings of food per month to Potluck, a food rescue organization in Arkansas that provides more than 5 million meals annually to hungry Arkansans.
“This program helps UAMS give back to the community and provide a better avenue for unused food and food waste than a landfill,” said Robert Airo, Engineering and Operations Business Manager at UAMS. “We have also opened the door to a successful food recycling program that can be implemented at other hospitals and businesses in Little Rock, which has a greater positive impact on our community and environment.”
Food waste sent to Organix consists of produce, dairy, salad bar and bakery items discarded during food preparation, while food donated to Potluck consists of cooked, unused foods.
“Our kitchen staff uses bins, which are emptied daily, to separate the food waste for Organix,” said Mike Campbell, executive director of UAMS Food and Nutrition Services. “The contents are stored in sealed dumpsters until it is picked up by Organix, while the food donated to Potluck is packaged and properly stored to await pick up.”
The program began in the UAMS cafeteria; however, Airo said the university hopes to implement the program campuswide.
Airo, who serves on the Little Rock Sustainability Commission and is chair of the commission’s Green City Operations Committee, has been a recycling proponent for years and said he’s always strived to create a more eco-friendly community.
“This could not have been possible without Robert’s resourcefulness and our entire staff’s willingness to try out this program,” said Chad Hale, recyclables coordinator at UAMS who oversees the program.
UAMS’ food recycling program has drawn interest from nearby hospitals and businesses that have expressed interest in implementing the program.