by Angeline Foshay

Since becoming the Assistant Director of Dining Services, John Lazarus has been a positive force in green thinking and the food security effort on campus. While John Lazarus has long been a “champion of food recovery efforts and food security,” according to Food Bank Coordinator Tuyen Nguyen, his sustainability work with the UC Global Food Initiative and the Food, Nutrition & Basic Skills Program has earned him the Staff Sustainability Award for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Created by the UCSB Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee, the Sustainability Recognition Awards Program is meant to recognize and celebrate the achievements of staff members. The importance of staff participation in the culture of sustainability on campus cannot be overstated. As the director of Campus Sustainability, Mo Lovegreen can attest to the essential role for staff on campus. “The students and faculty at UCSB rely on staff throughout the campus to take initiative and move sustainability forward. Without the staff working in their functional areas as subject matter experts, the campus wouldn’t be one of the national leaders in sustainability like it is today,” stated Lovegreen.

Lazarus has helped employ programs to increase the food security of students in need, such as launching a pastry donation program that utilizes leftovers from University Center Dining Units to feed and support students. Additionally, Lazarus & UCEN Dining have been reducing waste through composting and increasing sustainable food procurement, which accounts for about 26% of UCEN Dining purchases. “We are now producing almost 50 tons of compost per month.  This has grown to the point where the 2 smaller dumpsters that we used to have couldn’t keep up with us and we now have a roll off dumpster that is emptied weekly,” explained Lazarus.

Lazarus was instrumental in launching the Food, Nutrition and Basic Skills program, organizing and performing five food demonstrations with professional staff to help teach students about various cooking techniques and how to handle their food properly. The program, launched by A.S. Food Bank and many collaborative partners on campus, emphasizes increasing students’ ability to cook, take care of their bodies, manage food and finances, and create more positive and knowledgeable relationships with what we consume every day. Lazarus and his team have helped fill in the cooking and nutrition education gap that was missing from the program and the campus as a whole. “The financial pressures that students face are great and helping them to know how to stretch their dollars in a way that is tasty, quick, nutritious, and recognizes the environmental impacts of the food choices they make is a great way to allow the university community to thrive,” says Lazarus.

Increasing and emphasizing a culture of sustainability on campus can and has positively impacted faculty, staff, and students on campus. As John Lazarus put it, “We owe it to our community to do all we can to keep the environment and the people who are part of that healthy.  That helps UCSB fulfill its core mission of teaching and research.”