Waste reduction results beyond the environment

food graphic

The buffet tables in the dining halls at the University of California, Santa Cruz were impressively arranged with plates teeming with sandwiches, pizzas, fries and vegetables. However, the food no longer was edible.

Interns from UCSC’s Campus Sustainability Plan had fished uneaten meals from trash cans and plated them for display on cloth-covered tables. The display helped raise awareness for dining services’ food waste reduction efforts, says Clint Jeffries, dining unit manager and sustainability manager at UCSC.

“It educated them all,” Jeffries says. “There was food that should not have been taken, as it wasn’t eaten.” The tables also contributed to UCSC Dining’s 2015 Food Recovery Challenge award, a program created by the EPA to assist organizations that have pledged to improve sustainable food management practices (2016 award winners will be announced later this year).

Through food recovery, waste reduction and sustainability challenges, foodservice operators, particularly at schools and universities, are issuing mandates to reach a zero-waste goal. And some have promised to increase the amount of unprocessed, local and organic foods on menus. Meeting these challenges requires cooperation and buy-in from everyone involved, foodservice directors say.

At UCSC, staffers focused on preconsumer waste, reducing the amount of vegetable and other food scraps created during prep, while monitoring the amount of food consumed and cutting back on less popular dishes, Jeffries says. The campus was able to eliminate 100 tons of food waste, donate 1,000 pounds of food and divert 650 tons of food from landfills by expanding composting efforts, saving more than $19,000 in food and food disposal costs.

Employees at Worcester, Mass.-based Clark University’s dining services were recognized and rewarded when they were able to reduce waste during food prep, says Heather Vaillette, district manager for Sodexo Campus Services in Massachusetts.

Clark had committed to the Real Food Challenge—a goal of annually serving 20% “real food” as measured by expenses by 2020; the campus currently is at 12%. The challenge was the result of a push by students to increase the amount of food that is locally sourced, ecologically sound, humanely raised and fairly traded.

Clark’s Dining Services has been able to purchase more organic food with money saved from its food waste reduction efforts—weighing food, tracking usage and pooling with other Sodexo operators to get better purchase prices from suppliers on compostable paper goods, she said.

When a goal seems lofty or hard to reach, begin by taking small steps, Vaillette says. “Start with composting or bottled water reduction or preconsumer waste reduction,” she says. “When people see the results and gain a sense of pride at accomplishing something, then look at what more you can do.” 

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

Industry News & Opinion

Panera Bread Co. announced today that it intends to buy the Au Bon Pain brand as a way of opening more bakery-cafes in colleges, healthcare facilities, office buildings, travel centers and malls.

Au Bon Pain, which was Panera’s sole business under an earlier incarnation of the company, consists of 304 bakery-cafes. Several units are located in noncommercial venues.

Panera owns or holds the franchise rights to about 2,050 restaurants, few of which are located outside of strip malls.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Immediately after the deal was...

FSD Resources