Student initiative eliminates waste
At 1:45 p.m., Honors College Assistant Dining Manager Linda Trezoglon and her kitchen staff begin packing up the uneaten breakfast, lunch and dinner remains from the previous 36 hours.
An hour later, several trays of leftovers are ready to be wheeled out to a white van parked on the sidewalk.
Last year, this food would have been thrown away, but this week, it will find its way to the dinner table once again for the 20 residents at Alston Wilkes Veterans Home.
This redistribution of leftovers was made possible by a student-led program called Second Servings, which began at the Honors Residence in October thanks to first-year international business student Chase Mizzell.
Three weeks into his first semester, after participating in the Honors College Drop Everything and Lead (DEAL) program, Mizzell decided to start Second Servings as an awareness project to solve the problem of food waste at USC’s dining halls.
“It’s easy for [food waste] to be looked over for some amount of time,” Mizzell said. “In respect to how much food is served daily, it’s a small amount, but if you start looking at it monthly, or even weekly, it’s enough that it could make a big difference for a home that needs it.”
After bringing his proposal to Trezoglon and Russell House Operations Director Mike Gwiazdowski, Mizzell began seeking shelters that were willing to participate in the program. Since partnering with Second Servings in October, volunteers, workers and even residents from
Alston Wilkes Veterans home have picked up leftovers from the Honors College dining hall every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon, collecting about 40 meals worth of food with each visit.
“Food is good for the soul. It benefits the house itself because it cuts way back on our food expenses,” Alston Wilkes Resident Manager and Army veteran James Vaughn said.
He smiled and added, “And the guys sure are happy that they’re not eating my cooking all the time.”
Mizzell said Second Servings was able to start up quickly because of the enthusiastic support from Sodexo managers who were glad to get rid of food waste. Trezoglon said she was thrilled that this type of program was finally able to become a reality.
“This is helping the folks at the home, and at the same time, it’s helping us,” Trezoglon said. “We wouldn’t want to trash all that leftover food, but Sodexo’s standards say we can’t reserve it, and employees aren’t allowed to take any of it with us. Our mission is to serve students at the University – what better way than to also give back to the community while saving leftovers?”
Gibbes Court Bistro and Bates House are also now getting involved with Second Servings. Both dining halls have partnered with Columbia youth shelters run by Lutheran Family Services.
Volunteers from the youth homes began picking up leftovers from Gibbes Friday, and they began collecting from Bates this week, according to unit Managers Mike Griffin and Jim Jones. Gwiazdowski said his goal is to expand the program one dining unit at a time so each dining unit will have a different shelter.
“It’s neat because it builds a relationship between the actual shelter and the people who work in the building, so they get to know each other.”