A grant from Fry’s Food Stores, through Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, feeds the campus community, reduces food waste and encourages sustainable practices.
June 19, 2020

A grant from Fry’s Food Stores, through Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, feeds the campus community, reduces food waste and encourages sustainable practices. The grant supports the efforts of both Compost Cats and the Rooftop Greenhouse atop the Student Union Memorial Center, which supplies fresh produce for the Campus Pantry.

Fry’s Food Stores, a division of The Kroger Family of Companies, operates 122 stores in Arizona. In 2017, the enterprise announced Zero Hunger | Zero Waste, its social impact plan designed to end hunger in the communities it serves and eliminate waste across the company by 2025.

“We partner with innovative organizations that are really looking outside the box at what they can do for the betterment of their communities,” said Pam Giannonatti, Kroger corporate affairs manager for the Fry’s division.

Fry’s is expanding an existing philanthropic relationship with Compost Cats. The partnership first began through the FoodCycle Program.

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Compost Cats uses FoodCycle customers’ unsold food in compost only when it can’t be given to a food bank or similar organization.

FoodCycle is operated by the city of Tucson in partnership with Compost Cats. Compost Cats staff, who are mostly University of Arizona students, previously processed food waste picked up from participating stores and restaurants, turning it into compost to keep it out of landfills. Compost Cats and the city of Tucson are currently transitioning the operation to the Los Reales Landfill to increase its capacity and service level.

The current grant will allow Compost Cats to establish a demonstration site, a home for educating the community in a hands-on environment.

“It won’t just be a compost education facility,” said Trevor Ledbetter, director of the Office of Sustainability, which Compost Cats is part of. “We want it to be the whole picture of zero hunger zero waste, where we educate people on what food security is.”

At the demonstration site, school groups and the public will learn to grow food, compost, and reduce and reuse waste, said Ledbetter.

“We’ll make the concept of sustainability more accessible and lower the barriers to entry,” he said.

The remainder of the grant helps the Campus Pantry continue providing freshly grown food by underwriting operational costs for the Rooftop Greenhouse for one year. The 1,000-square-foot greenhouse is solely devoted to growing produce for the Campus Pantry, located within Student Union Memorial Center. It yields 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers per year and is 10 times more productive than an outdoor garden.

Arizona is the only university in the country to have a hydroponic, controlled-environment garden built to fight food insecurity, said Todd Millay, director of Arizona Student Unions.

“The product is harvested and goes straight to donation three times a week,” he said.

The fresh produce is extremely popular, said Bridgette Nobbe, Campus Pantry coordinator. Vegetables are expensive, and many students are only able to arrange trips to a grocery store once every few weeks.

“Each year we serve over 3,000 unique individuals. Probably every person has taken at least one item from the rooftop garden, so the number of students it reaches is just powerful. It warms my heart to know it will continue,” said Nobbe.

Giannonatti was impressed with the greenhouse when she learned about it and took a virtual tour.

“It gives the students the opportunity to get the nutritious food they need so they can focus on their education,” she said. “Our purpose at Fry's is to Feed the Human Spirit. One way that we do this is providing healthy, nutritious food to those in need. Another is to adopt and promote innovative, sustainable practices. We’re excited the University of Arizona has programs in both areas and value our partnership with them.”

Compost Cats and the Rooftop Greenhouse also provide student learning opportunities. Compost Cats is mostly run by students, and the new demonstration site will provide them new channels for engagement and research. The greenhouse is staffed by students who grow and care for the plants under the direction of a biosystems engineering professor.

Kroger’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste Plan in Arizona

 

Fry’s stores in Arizona last year:

  • Composted 8.5 million pounds of food
  • Donated 11 million meals weighing 4.2 million pounds
  • Diverted a total of 107 million pounds from landfills

 

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The Rooftop Greenhouse was built in 2018. Student groups competed to present the most efficient, high-tech designs for growing food atop the Student Union Memorial Center.