By Jack Kaestner, MATC culinary arts instructor
The phrase “farm to table” has become popular in recent years to describe restaurant or home cooks creating menus based on food obtained from local farms or farmers markets. Now another phrase is gaining traction – “garbage to garden.”
Many organizations, including local, state, national and international governments, are beginning to focus on food waste. As much as 35 percent of the food grown is never eaten. Some edible food is going to waste because people say, “It looks weird or has a blemish.” Businesses and organizations regularly dispose of a great deal of prepared foods left over from events.
Recent new initiatives are helping divert tons of waste to local food pantries. Major league sports teams have been leaders in the field of diverting edible food to the needy.
The other component to food waste is inedible – vegetable peelings, fruit rinds, coffee grounds and bones from meats. Between 30-35 percent of our solid waste is food waste. With landfill space at a premium and restrictions on dumping garbage in the oceans, there is a new interest in reducing overall solid waste. Governments across the world are passing laws to eliminate and/or reduce food waste.
(left to right) Recent culinary arts graduates Tinnetta Garner, Delaney Trezise and Josh Faye worked on the composting project during the Spring 2016 semester.
Culinary Arts Partners with Building Services
In January 2016, funded by a Faculty Innovation Grant and with assistance from Ginny Routhe, MATC’s sustainability manager, MATC’s Culinary Arts and Building Services departments implemented a food-composting program in the culinary labs, 6th Street Café, Cuisine Restaurant and the cafeteria prep kitchen on the Downtown Milwaukee Campus. We partnered with “Compost Crusader” and “The Farm,” which haul away and compost the college’s food waste, along with paper towels and other compostables.
After trial and error, we are now able to divert about 1,500 pounds of food waste per week during the academic year. We are able to compost onion skins; egg shells; vegetable trimmings; chicken, beef and fish bones; waxed food boxes; paper products; and table scraps.
Students and staff in Cuisine Restaurant are composting almost 80 percent of their waste. This is a learning experience for students and instructors alike. This fundamental change in handling our food waste will help MATC in its sustainability efforts. It also helps our students because our industry is looking for professionals who are knowledgeable about composting.
MATC landscape horticulture instructor Laurie Weiss (left) works with a student on the new raised garden beds at the Mequon Campus.
Finished compost from the MATC food waste was used to fertilize garden beds for use by a class studying organic vegetable and herb production at the Mequon Campus this summer.
Compost Nourishes MATC Landscape Horticulture Gardens
For every 20,000 pounds of food waste MATC sends to be composted, the college receives one yard of finished compost. Compost can be donated to local community gardens to help feed others. In June, the Culinary Arts department partnered with MATC’s Landscape Horticulture program. Compost was delivered to the greenhouses at the Mequon Campus and used in the new raised garden beds by a class studying organic vegetable and herb production held this summer.
Hopefully, this will inspire you to start composting. If you can’t start your own program, consider encouraging your local municipality or homeowners association to start a community composting program. Several industrial composters in the Milwaukee area handle organic waste from local business and groups.
Here are resources about composting:
Home Composting Cornell University
For more information about MATC’s culinary arts associate degree program, visit: http://www.matc.edu/business/degrees/culinary-arts.cfm
For additional information on MATC’s culinary management program, see: http://www.matc.edu/business/degrees/culinary-management.cfm
For more on MATC’s landscape horticulture associate degree, visit: http://www.matc.edu/tas/degrees/landscape-horticulture.cfm