Judy Gipper (Narrating) : Hello, I'm Judy Gipper, Director of Dining Services. Western Michigan University Dining Services is very proud of our Food Diversion Initiative, a process started in June 2011 in the Bernhard Center Dining Service kitchen. This process calls for collection of pre-consumer fresh vegetable and fruit trimmings and waste and giving these products to a local farmer for use as livestock feed. This project is one of many Dining Services initiatives tied to our University’s mission and goals as sustainability is a key priority of Western Michigan University.
Michigan Department of Agriculture officials stated that Western Michigan University is the only university in the state that was making use of vegetable and fruit waste in this sustainable manner.
Judy: What do you think of the food diversion initiative?
Male Dining Service Employee: I think it's a very good idea. We're not only helping the environment, but we're also helping to sustain our university here.
Judy: Do you think that the food diversion initiative is a good program?
Female Dining Service Employee: We, all the employees that are here, we feel wonderful about it. We personally are acquainted through photographs with the pigs we are feeding. We heard that Patches just had seven babies so we get to see pictures of her online and we think this is a really, really important program.
Judy (Narrating): Bear-Foot farms is collaborating with Dining Services as we have a relationship with Kim and Sandie McNees, the owners of Bear-Foot farms as we purchase pork and some vegetables from Bear-Foot. Bear-Foot farmers are picking up the bins three times per week. They are to follow hygienic practices when coming into the kitchen to pick up the bins from the coolers. The bins are loaded by the farmer into their truck where their pigs will be fed the trimmings. The farmers power wash and return the blue bins to Dining Services as clean as possible. Upon returning the bins to campus they are sanitized inside and out by Dining Services prior to being returned to our production areas.
Judy: This is Sandie McNees, farmer from Bear-Foot farms. She's here at the Dining Service dock to drop off clean bins and shortly she'll be picking up the full bins and taking them back to her farm. So Sandie, how has this process been working for you and your husband on your farm?
Sandy McNees: It's working really well, especially this time of year because as we're going into winter the pasture tends to start... it's already been eaten down by the pigs and frost has killed a lot of it, eventually we'll have snowcover and the animals will not be able to forage like they usually do. In the winter you have to supply more grain which is something we try to stay away from because with the natural you get a better quality of meat with the fruits and the vegetables and the grasses that they get. We have about eight sows, those are the mama pigs, we have about 31 baby pigs who are around seven to eight weeks old. Normally we don't like to have this many pigs going into the winter, because of the feed issue. It's very hard on a farmer, especially a pasture operation like ours is because you have to make sure you have enough food for these animals. With this coming in, it's really helping us to where we didn't have to get rid of a lot of the hogs we normally would going into the winter.
Judy (Narrating): Our Food Diversion Initiative has been very successful and will be implemented in other Dining Service kitchens, as the farmers can use more trimmings for feed. Expanding the program will allow Dining Service to reduce water and energy consumption through avoiding use of a garbage disposal. Using a Food Diversion Initiative program has been a good step on the path to full composting. This program has been good for all involved, including the pigs.