Students at Lebanon Valley College, in Annville, Penn., are not wasting away—food waste that is. A pilot sustainability initiative started in the fall semester, Taking Action for a Sustainable Tomorrow Everywhere (T.A.S.T.E.) encourages students to actively participate in reducing waste at dining hall facilities.
In partnership with student organizations and college student research teams, data was collected, tracked and analyzed regularly. By the end of the first semester, data show that the program has yielded an overall savings of more than $25,000 and a decrease of 40 pounds of waste per meal.
“Initially the goals were more for our team back of house to focus on how to limit the amount of food we’re putting in the trash,” explains Bill Allman, general manager for Metz at Lebanon. But after assessing the amount of food on plates coming back to the kitchen, Allman and his team realized that waste was a front-of-house issue that had to be addressed as well. So “part of our program is really partnering with the student body and getting them involved in the front-of-house collection of food waste,” Allman explains.
Four tactics allow for students to participate and earn rewards for reducing waste:
- Sample It! encourages students to sample food before wasting a helping in the event that they don’t like the dish;
- Take What You Like, Eat What You Take shares food facts with students on signage, menus and flyers to help them understand the impact of tossing food that they don’t eat. For example, more than 4.5 million tons of food is wasted every year in the U.S.—that is enough food to fill the Rose Bowl every single day of the year;
- Mom’s Clean Plate Club invites students to consume everything they have taken and prove it by showing their clean plate to Lebanon Valley’s “Official Mom,” Mary Anne Anspach, a 45-year veteran of the dining services team; and
- SMART Plates—Sustainable Meals Aiding Responsible Tastes—are meals that help students make healthy, sustainable choices. Entreés incorporate local foods and whole grains, have less than 500 milligrams of sodium and 5 grams of saturated fat and are under 750 calories.
Students receive a T.A.S.T.E. card, which is stamped by dining services staff when tasks are completed. When 10 stamps are collected, students turn it in for a T.A.S.T.E. token. Tokens can then be exchanged for prizes, such as a free drink (one token), a free meal (three tokens) or 25 flex dollars to use in the dining hall (six tokens).