Abstract for: Food Access and Food Waste in College: The College Campus as a Local Food System

Colleges and universities face increasing student food insecurity. Concurrently, higher education struggles to address rising campus food waste. While there has been substantial scholarship addressing each of these concerns, understanding the coupled nature of their interactions may provide a partial solution. Our modeling work explores the dynamics of the US college campus policy environment, seeking to measure the potential impact of food waste on food access of the student population. We generated a conceptual system dynamics model representing dynamics within the food service and the student population sectors, incorporating information from (a) interviews with staff in charge of sustainability and food access initiatives within a college campus in Upstate New York and (b) secondary data on undergraduate population retention and graduation rates and on food waste generation by this population in New York State. Our next steps will involve formalizing our conceptual model to explore the effectiveness of three families of policies on food access and waste generation at the college campus: (1) Increasing access to meal plans, (2) reducing plate waste, and (3) improving the just-in-time distribution of unsold food.