California State University, Northridge’s commitment to food gardening education and food waste recovery was recently recognized with a “Healthy and Safe Communities” award from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). The association promotes a cleaner Southern California by highlighting excellence in sustainable planning efforts and development projects in the region. On May 3, CSUN officials will formally receive the award at the association’s Southern Annual Regional Conference and General Assembly.
In 2016, a California State University (CSU) study that showed 24 percent of CSU students (about 460,000 students) were food insecure prompted CSUN leaders to work toward greater food security across campus. With the help and support of students, faculty, staff and administrators, CSUN has made remarkable changes to its food landscape.
“CSUN supports and hosts several organic food learning gardens, as well as a native plant pollinator garden that supports the important work of bees and butterflies in maintaining our food supply,” said Erica Wohldmann, interim director of the Institute for Sustainability. “The produce harvested from our gardens gets donated to student volunteers, to our newly created free CSUN Food Pantry and to local nonprofits that work to feed underserved Angelenos.
“Reducing food waste more broadly is also a priority for the university,” Wohldmann continued. “We have implemented a food composting program that currently diverts 100 percent of our pre-consumer waste from the landfill, and the compost the university makes is then used to feed the soil of the food gardens. Last year alone, student and faculty volunteers converted 50,000 lbs. of food scraps into 12,000 lbs. of soil — scraps that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.”
The university also goes beyond reducing food waste and has implemented “a post-consumer waste composting program that is quickly growing, and takes not only food waste but also all of the compostable cutlery, plates, cups, coffee lids and food containers that are used in dining facilities — bringing the campus closer to the goal of offering zero-waste facilities,” Wohldmann said.
The SCAG Healthy and Safe Communities award brings pride and prestige to the university and wider CSUN community, Wohldmann said.
“This award should make students, faculty and staff proud to be a part of CSUN and hopefully it inspires them to become more involved in our programs here on campus or in their own communities,” she said. “I’m honored to share our accomplishments at the sustainability conferences that I attend. In the past 10 years, our campus has transformed dramatically — we’re leading the nation in sustainability and resilience efforts, and it makes me very hopeful.”