UNL starts growing produce to reduce food waste in dining halls
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is doing its part to be more sustainable by introducing a different form of agriculture to students.
In September, UNL started growing some of its own produce inside a micro-farm in one of its dining halls.
Matt Jewell, assistant manager in Selleck Dining Hall and one of the farmers, said it has more than one benefit to the students.
“It reduces waste for us,” he said. “We’re growing on such a small level that we’re able to put that stuff right into our food immediately, so we’re seeing that food get used and not wasted the way that we might with some of our other product,” Jewell said. “I think it’s good for people to recognize that these are all things we can grow in our backyard, and I think it opens up that world to our students, too.”
The farm has organic lettuce, basil, pea shoots and other greens, at all different growth stages.
Jewell said he hopes the university can expand the program over the next few years.
“UNL is a major player in the agricultural world here in the state,” he said. “What I appreciate about [the micro-farm] is it introduces everyone to a different style of agriculture.”
Jewell said it gives students a healthier option, and it’s becoming more popular.
“You know, of course the products we were already getting, we were happy with, but you can’t get fresher than pulling it out of the same building where it’s grown,” he said. “Students are starting to notice.”
Farmers plant and harvest the products when they’re ready before the final product makes its way to students’ plates.
“If we have it available, we’re using it every day, and it typically goes pretty quickly,” Jewell said. “We’re feeding 2,000 to 3,000 students every day here at Selleck alone. So when we can have these types of benefits here, it will have an impact.”
Jewell said a gluten-free cafe in the dining hall, called Moxie’s, has seen a lot of success with the produce.
He said students have been adding the greens onto pizzas, salads and noodle bowls.
“I think we see it also as an educational tool,” he said. “Getting people to think about where their food comes from, how that food is produced and the type of input.”
And the micro-farm cuts back on delivery costs for the university as well.
Jewell said he hopes this program can encourage others to be more self-sufficient as well.
“I think it’s good for people to recognize that these are all things we can grow in our backyard, and I think it opens up that world to our students too,” Jewell said.