Zero-waste soups and stews

Zero-waste soups and stews save ingredients from hitting the compost bin.

gumbo soup

The majority of the 20,000 students at Santa Barbara City College are from low-income families, says Carrie Mitchum, executive chef of food services at the Southern California community college. “They’re given a $10-a-day food voucher to eat at school, so we have to keep prices very low,” she says. “If something costs us one dollar, we sell it for just two dollars.” In SBCC’s production kitchen, which services nine campus dining venues, trashing or composting scraps of meat and vegetables translates directly into elevated costs.

While reducing food waste may be a sustainability goal at many colleges, at SBCC it is an economic necessity. Mitchum is tasked with purchasing less and using whatever is leftover in other dishes. Soups and stews are natural vehicles for these odds and ends of vegetables, grains and proteins, but you can’t just add items aimlessly into the pot, she says.

“If we have a lot of cabbage-y vegetables left over, like broccoli and cauliflower, I flavor the soup with curry or something equally assertive,” Mitchum says.

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