No wasting in the culinary dept.

Food service is working to reduce food waste and sustainability.

Photo Courtesy of Alexandra Yates

An Orange Coast College food service management instructor has big plans for food waste management and sustainability classes on campus.

Alexandra Yates is teaching her students, who are going into restaurant management and other related programs, to create an environment that encourages food sustainability in emerging hospitality jobs.

“The worst thing for a faculty member, for myself, is thinking, ‘are my students hungry or would they have done better on an exam, or would they study more if they don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from,’” Yates said.

In an effort to address food insecurity among students, one of her biggest priorities, Yates and her students are creating meals for the Pirates’ Cove, OCC’s on-campus food pantry, by obtaining 95 percent of the meal’s ingredients from the pantry itself. In the first lab of the semester, the class made over 400 meal portions, Yates said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 133 billion pounds of food worth $161 billion were sent to landfills in 2010. Much of that food was in good condition and could have fed people in need.

As she looks to the future, Yates has been developing new classes and is hoping to start a new program called Sustainable Management of Food that will be available to anyone willing to learn how to minimize food waste.

She said she has received grants to fund composting units around campus which will be used to grow fresh products. The food waste created by her classes will be used to fertilize those units.

Yates said 50 percent of that food will go directly to Pirates’ Cove, the other 50 percent will be used in labs to produce meals for the pantry.

She also hopes to have a class in the Captain’s Table, OCC’s student-run restaurant, that will be open to community members who can’t afford to take their families to dinner.

“I could never imagine doing anything else [other] then helping someone,” Yates said.

Students at OCC can also do their part in helping other students. Pirates’ Cove accepts donations all year long and is located in Journalism 108. They have a list of donations they accept on the OCC website.