Waste not want not: how residential halls are minimising food waste and easing student financial burdens

23 Apr 2024

For a busy student trying to juggle study, work and life itself, there is nothing more convenient than catered residential halls. However, feeding almost 900 students multiple meals per day has the potential to create high food wastage for the university.

To combat this, the Residential Division, ANUSA and Chartwells catering have partnered to develop a sustainable solution.   

A four-week trial is underway, where surplus meals from Bruce Hall and Wright Hall are being packaged and transferred to the Brian Kenyon Student Space (BKSS) for students to eat free of charge.  

Meals are delivered to BKSS around 12.30pm Monday – Friday and are available to collect from 1pm. An estimated 150 meals will be offered each week, with variations depending on meal uptake in the halls.  

The trial will run from 8 April – 3 May. If successful, the university expects to establish this staff-led initiative in a more permanent format. 

“When we looked at this opportunity to do better for our ANU community, it was a no brainer for all of us. I'm really passionate about incorporating sustainability into what we do and that this trial will be the start of something we can continue that will create lasting change,” Geraldine Schmid, Head of Residence, Bruce Hall, says.

Chartwells focuses on cooking high-quality, nutritious meals and have always had an ethos of sustainability. Other sustainability measures of Chartwells include repurposing food, seasonal buying, developing a menu that considers the preferences of residents and transferring leftovers to organic waste.  

“Our key focus is educating the residents and teaching them to understand the impact or foot print they are having on plate waste,” Tina Cannistra, Chartwells Site Operations Manager, says.  

“We are hoping to reduce plate waste by a minimum of 6 per cent annually, equating to roughly 576 kilos of food waste with this new initiative.”    

BKSS is an existing food relief station on campus, providing free breakfasts and quality excess food from supermarkets.  

ANUSA says the quantity of students entering BKSS for food relief has increased drastically during the last three years. In 2022 the total allocated budget for BKSS was roughly $70, 000, this increased to $90, 000 in 2023, and again in 2024 to $100,000. The overwhelming majority of this budget goes towards the free breakfast program. 

“Despite these increases in budget, we still run out of milk, cereal, and bread most days due to budget constraints,” Charlotte Carnes, Vice President of ANUSA and manager of BKSS, says.  

“We see students experiencing food insecurity every day, some students take as many as five slices of bread in the morning for breakfast because it may be their only meal until they go home for dinner.” 

Only one week into this program, ANUSA has reported lines of 60-plus students accessing free lunches, which is only expected to increase as the program becomes better known.  

Charlotte says she is looking forward to continuing and building on this partnership with the Residential Experience Division and Chartwells and hopes that this partnership which has already been so positive, paves the way for greater cost-of-living relief for ANU students.