EPA honors TU for reducing food waste

By Kyle Hobstetter on May 6, 2020

TU the only Maryland recipient, one of just three universities honored

Students as part of the Food Recovery Network
Members of Towson University's Food Recovery Network, collect food to donate to local food banks and pantries. TU was recently recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency with a 2019 Food Recovery Challenge Regional Award. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized Towson University with a 2019 Food Recovery Challenge Regional Award.

TU was the only Maryland recipient and just one of three higher education institutions to be recognized, along with Keene State College and the University of Oregon.

As part of the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge, organizations pledged to improve their sustainable food management practices and report their results.

As a winner in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, Towson University used innovative best practices to prevent and reduce food waste. This included introducing a zero waste initiative at thousands of annual events held on campus, which incorporated compostable service ware, bulk beverages and right-sized food portions

“It is remarkable how Towson University and its students have embraced the food recovery concept,” says the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio. “The university began a rigorous expansion of its composting program, and TU students took an active role in diverting food waste by taking surplus items from campus dining facilities and transporting them to local nonprofit organizations.”

Towson University composts nearly 300,000 pounds of food waste annually, hosts more than 3,000 zero-waste campus events and empowers students to collect and donate more than 6,000 pounds of surplus dining hall food. This includes donating extra food when TU closed early because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

After working for years to get the campus community to do its part for the environment, the Office of Sustainability’s staff is happy that everyone’s hard work is being recognized. 

“This is just a great honor, recognizing the efforts and the breadth of the work that’s being done,” says Paddy Watson, assistant director of TU’s Office of Sustainability. “It’s great to see Towson University and the EPA side by side. And this was not a single-year effort. It’s taken many community partners and several years to continue to work towards this process.”

Along with helping the environment and the local community, Towson University has taken steps to help the campus community. TU has introduced two initiatives that address food insecurity on campus: the Food Insecurity Support Fund and the FoodShare Program.

The Food Insecurity Support Fund meets the immediate needs of students experiencing food insecurity. Recipients receive money directly onto their TU OneCards that can be used at dining halls on campus.

The FoodShare program offers support for students, faculty and staff experiencing food insecurity via a food pantry located in the Ward and West Building.

According to Watson, the EPA’s honor is due to the teamwork from departments across campus. This includes of the Office of Sustainability, Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, Chartwells, Black & Gold Catering, Events and Conference Services, the TU student Eco-Reps program and the Student Environmental Organizations

“It’s rewarding to see others receive recognition, especially when it’s not their organization’s primary goal,” Watson says. “Black & Gold’s goal is to provide a delicious and positive experience for students—not necessarily to provide a zero-waste event. 

“The fact that they can receive recognition for their efforts and understand that there are larger, real-world implications that they’re having a positive impact on, I think that’s so satisfying.”

Stay up to date on TU’s sustainability efforts by following TU Goes Green on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.