By: Amanda Egan
Greetings, Furman community! My name is Amanda Egan, and I am the Bon Appetit Student Fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year. The past few weeks have brought unexpected change to all of us as we learn to maintain our community digitally. While challenging, it has been wonderful to see how we have adapted and persevered.
All of the Shi Center fellowships look a lot different now, but we are all working remotely to promote our campus mission toward sustainability, which has the potential to have an even broader impact as members of the Furman family incorporate sustainable practices into their lives and homes across the country. Today, I’m going to tell you a little about what my fellowship entailed while I was still on campus, and how I’m trying to continue the things I learned from the fellowship off-campus.
Before all of this, my fellowship entailed working directly with Bon Appetit in the dining hall. Bon Appetit is a sustainably focused restaurant company offering full food-service management on-site to corporations, universities, museums, and specialty venues throughout the United States. My main goal was to act as a liaison between Bon Appetit and the Furman community, educating students and faculty about what Furman’s kitchen does every day to provide us delicious, nutritious, and locally sourced meals. At the beginning of the year, I had the opportunity to meet a national Bon Appetit fellow based in Los Angeles. She began in a similar role to mine while she was an undergrad student, and she now travels to Bon Appetit dining halls across the country to see how individual kitchens promote sustainable practices. She gave me some really fun event ideas that sadly I wasn’t able to do, but I’m going to share one here so that maybe future fellows can make it a reality: an “ugly produce” photo booth! Students could learn about the high aesthetic standards that produce must meet to even show up on supermarket shelves, by dressing up quirky pieces of produce with props and taking a photo of their creation. I think many people would be shocked to find out that 25 billion pounds of produce went to waste in 2010, due to not measuring up to beauty standards according to the USDA. This event would be a fun way to show people that non-traditional shaped produce is not only special in its own way, but tastes just as good as its regular shaped counterpart! Read more about Bon Appetit’s dedication to salvaging “cosmetically challenged” produce here.
An event I was able to do this year was the “Weigh-Your-Waste” event which raised awareness about food waste and promoted mindful consumption. For 30 minutes during peak lunch hours, we blocked off the dish conveyor belt and collected every dining hall patron’s leftover food. We found that an average of 2.6 ounces of food per person is wasted in the dining hall on any given day. This added up to 36 pounds of waste within a 30-minute timespan! Here’s a visual of what 36 pounds of waste looks like:
The good thing is that some of this waste is compostable on the Furman farm, but not all of it. Putting on this event opened my eyes to the importance of portion control, and this is coming from someone whose eyes are often bigger than her stomach. While being home, I have tried to limit my food waste by cooking with fresh ingredients instead of making packaged meals, serving myself smaller portions, and wrapping up what I don’t eat for later. One future goal I have for myself is to start my own compost bin so that the waste I still accumulate can go to good use. I encourage everyone to set small goals for themselves to limit their ecological footprint – there truly is no better time than now to make positive life changes! If you don’t know where to start, this quiz is a really powerful tool that shows you how many planets we would need if everyone on Earth had your consumption habits. The results come with suggestions on how to do your part to help the ONE planet we have!
I hope I gave you a glimpse into what my fellowship was like while still on Furman’s campus. I wish everyone a happy, healthy rest of the year.