Getting Piggy With It

FoodService Director - What I Learned - Marylou KennedyWhen a composter broke at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, Mary Lou Kennedy, director of dining services, decided to send the waste to a local pig farm. Kennedy talks about how her department made the arrangement and why feeding the pigs made more sense for her operation.

FoodService Director - What I Learned - Marylou KennedyDuring the last three years, the Dining Services department at 1,700-student Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, has been able to compost about three tons of pre-consumer waste per semester on campus. But when one of the college’s composters broke recently, Director of Dining Services Mary Lou Kennedy seized the opportunity to send waste from two of her dining halls to a local pig farm. Kennedy talks about farming out Bowdoin’s waste.

“We’ve been considering using a pig farmer for quite some time and we let people know we were interested, but there were no local pig farms that we knew of. Then our sustainability coordinator met a farmer at a conference who thought he might be interested. We contacted him and we worked out a plan of action. It was complete happenstance that it happened the same week the composter broke. The timing was perfect.

Serving more than 20,000 meals per week, we produce more food waste than we can use for on-campus composting. The farm easily uses all that we provide. This allows us to keep scraps that didn’t go to campus composting from the waste stream, which we expect will lower the volume considerably. In composting, we only use pre-consumer food waste but the farm is able to use pre-and post-consumer waste. Before, all that post-consumer waste was going to a landfill because the composter could only handle kitchen scraps.

The farmer who takes our scraps uses it for both pigs and cows. We discovered that the pigs enjoy the post-consumer waste and the cows have a definite preference for the pre-consumer waste. The pre-consumer waste has fruit peels, and we learned that the pigs don’t like citrus. Our garden manager has compost bins at our two organic gardens so, in addition to leaves and brown waste, she ends up adding scraps from the garden to get greens into the compost mix. Our goal is to use everything we can, use it wisely, reduce our waste and support the local agriculture.

The process is simple. We collect the food scraps in 15-gallon containers in both large dining halls. One of the farm’s owners stops at the kitchen and picks up the containers on her way home from work. She returns the empty containers each evening for rotation. The hardest part was making sure that we communicated effectively with all the dishroom staff. They needed to know that for the process to work correctly, they needed to be careful to keep non-food items out of the waste mix.

In our case, the college had to pay for the campus composter, to have the food scraps transported and to have someone tend the composter. Since the farmer is able to pick up the waste for free there is a labor savings for us.

Stay flexible and be alert to any sustainability possibilities that might present themselves. If you’re nervous about your abilities, just start small. We actually had a college employee, who had a pig, who would pick up small amounts from us. The kitchen staff was happy to help him and found it exciting to think that our food waste could be of use to someone. Now that we’ve found this farmer, we’re able to take the idea to the next level.”



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