2008 Portability Study: Portability rules

Seventy-five percent of operators are looking to grow their grab-and-go business.

“In the last three years, the numbers have been trending downward a bit,” she says. “Our total meals for the system are up, so students are going [back] a little more to the dining halls, rather than takeout.”

Despite growing concerns about the role packaging plays in adding to the waste stream, plastic and foam still rule when it comes to portable foods. On average, 60% of respondents said they use plastic wrap or containers. Fifty-three percent offer foam containers, 49% use plastic clamshells, 48% use plastic salad bowls with clear lids and 42% use paper containers.

Only 28% offer biodegradable containers, with colleges and universities (47%) most likely to make such packaging available. Only 15% of schools make use of biodegradable packaging.

Pricing, of course, is one issue with biodegradable packaging. But some operators say it is becoming less expensive to buy such materials. Martha Jefferson’s Boucher noted her department was given administration’s blessing to purchase more environmentally-friendly packaging as prices began to inch closer to what it costs for other types of portable packaging.

Some operators and food management companies are looking to deal with the packaging issue by making reusable bags, which customers can then carry with them whenever they want food to go. Aramark, for example, rolled out its “Grab and Go Green” bags at B&I accounts on Earth Day.

But perhaps the most interesting approach to packaging can be found at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where Dining Services is using containers with aluminum bottoms.

“We partnered with an environmental residence academic program,” explains Amy Beckstrom, director of Dining Services. Every year they study a different component of dining services. Their recommendation, after looking at foam versus plastic versus paper, was that we should use aluminum-bottomed grab-and-go containers.”

Beckstrom likens the new containers to the old TV dinner-style packaging. She says the program studied the carbon footprint made by manufacturing and recycling the aluminumware and found that it was smaller than other types of packaging.

“We may have the ugliest containers out there, but we do market that fact, saying, ‘This is why you’re seeing these types of containers.’ We serve everything in them; we eliminated Styrofoam and clamshell containers.”

Beckstrom adds the department also offers customers reusable bags.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

As part of a 10-year contract to run Eastern Michigan University’s foodservice, Chartwells will invest $5 million in the Ypsilanti, Mich., university, as well as provide it with $18 million in capital improvements, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press .

The university’s board of regents approved the contract on Tuesday, citing the new revenue as an opportunity to expand and improve campus foodservice. EMU’s website indicates the partnership will allow for more student input as well as the introduction of food trucks and improved technology.

“The primary reason...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Virginia will soon be able to use part of their meal plans to buy fresh food grown locally, the result of a new partnership between the school and Greens to Grounds, a nonprofit organization run by students.

Starting in the fall, students will be able to use their meal plan “Plus Dollars” to purchase premade food boxes from Greens to Grounds. The boxes, which come in “snack” or “produce” options, contain a variety of vegetables and fruits with a different weekly menu. The packages typically cost no more than $10, and students will be able to place box...

Industry News & Opinion

The USDA analyzed the efficacy of using Medicaid data to certify students for free or reduced-price lunch, a provision included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Participating states and districts reported conflicting data on changes in the percentage of students certified, number of meals served, federal reimbursements and certification costs.

The method is used as an alternative to household applications and data matching with other public benefit programs to streamline the certification of more low-income students. The program was first piloted statewide in Kentucky...

Ideas and Innovation
kids students cafeteria line

While summer feeding programs are commonplace in school districts across the country, foodservice operators still struggle to get the word out and kids in.

Many districts are scaling back or discontinuing their summer feeding programs due to low participation, citing staffing costs and other issues that make it difficult to break even and provide a profitable program.

“We need to find a way to encourage that participation,” Tom Freitas—foodservice director for Traverse City Area Public Schools in Traverse City, Mich.—told Record Eagle News . “We are open to ideas as long as...

FSD Resources