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Texas A&M's Duncan Dining Hall donates leftover produce to exotic animals

Posted at 8:09 PM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 21:09:05-05

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M Dining Services works hard to prevent food waste from campus dining halls.

Typically, leftover fruit and veggies are either donated to Twin City Mission or are sent to be made into compost. Now, a new crop of consumers are benefiting from Texas A&M's excess produce - exotic animals. Thanks to TAMU Dining Services with Chartwells Higher Ed, the residents of the TAMU Winnie Carter Wildlife Center in College Station are living richer lives.

“When we have extra fruit like this, then we can treat the animals," Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, veterinarian and director of the Winnie Carter Wildlife Center. "As you can see, the camels think the produce is fantastic. And what we’ll do is walk around and see if some of the other animals want the fruit.”

From camels to kangaroos, peacocks, and especially the tortoises enjoy the snacks. Even the wildlife center’s carnivores, several big cats, can enjoy the food.

“We typically use them for scent enrichment," said Mattie Schuessler, assistant tech for the wildlife center. "Like Sabi [the big cat], for instance, loves oranges. He will roll around in them. The scent really brings a lot of newness to their life, because they’re not really used to that in the wild. So it’s kind of a novel item for them.”

Schuessler stated that providing enrichment and giving animals healthy treats is an important part of the wildlife center’s role of giving these exotic animals quality care. For TAMU Dining Services, which provides this food specifically from Duncan Dining Hall each Friday afternoon, helping animals compliments their own goals for sustainable and green business practices.

“Chartwells is one of the largest food providers in all of America," said Haleigh Dean, spokesperson, Chartwells Higher Ed – TAMU Dining Services. "So we understand that it is our responsibility to reduce food waste and find alternate ways of taking care of food waste.”

The partnership has been in place for just over two weeks now, and the dining hall has already donated 350 gallons of fruit and veggies to the wildlife center.