One of UC Merced’s core values is sustainability and that extends to food waste.
Since its inception last year, the Bobcat Eats Food Waste Awareness and Prevention Program has saved more than 1 million pounds of food. The partnership between UC Merced and the Merced County Food Bank has made a remarkable difference in the county, enough to warrant attention from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
AASHE has awarded UC Merced’s Bobcat Eats program with the 2019 Campus Sustainability Achievement Award, which honors achievements in sustainability, research advancements and student leadership. The campus will be recognized at the AASHE conference in Spokane, Wash. next month.
"The Bobcat Eats Food Waste Awareness and Prevention Program has enjoyed incredible success and has been highly impactful for our community,” program coordinator Erin Meyer said. “We are honored to accept this award from such a notable higher education organization like AASHE and are humbled that many groups and businesses in the community, and at UC Merced, have joined the cause through volunteering, donating food and more.”
Since the program launched in May 2018, the food bank’s waste has dropped from 15 percent to 3 percent. More than two dozen sites around Merced also donate food, working with Meyer and her team to set up weekly pickups so food can be moved elsewhere for distribution. The number of distribution sites has grown to 24.
In July, Bobcat Eats was recognized by the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference as part of its 14th annual Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practice Awards. The program was honored for “Planning, Communications and Partnerships.”
This is the second recognition UC Merced has received from AASHE in the past several weeks. Recently, UC Merced ranked No. 1 in sustainable buildings and tied for No. 1 in sustainability research in the AASHE Sustainable Campus Index 2019. The university ranked No. 6 overall in sustainable practices among doctoral institutions.
"We are pleased about this acknowledgement because it is a testament of the partnerships established that are creating an extraordinary impact within our community," Assistant Director of Sustainability Breeana Sylvas said. “This is a very exciting time for campus sustainability.”
Meyer hopes more businesses, orchards and farms will become donors so the program can continue to grow and serve the community. If you are interested in volunteering or becoming a donor or hosting a distribution site, you can reach Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.