News Date: 
Sunday, April 22, 2012

Source: The Red and Black

By Taylor West on April 22, 2012

At the end of the day, after University students have enjoyed all the Snelling pizza they can manage, three or four 30-gallon trash cans come out of University dining halls each day.

But Jeanne Fry, the director of food services, said things could be worse considering the 8,600 meal plan customers they accommodate on a regular basis.

“That is bones, and apple cores, and napkins and everything, so that is not a lot of waste,” Fry said. “I’d say all units are equally conscious of over-production and waste.”

Though the University can’t do anything about the leftover uneaten food the students throw away, there are efforts to try and make good use of the leftover food the University did not serve.

Fry said if there are full plates of a dish left over that didn’t go to the line to be served, those dishes are donated to Full Plate, a food recovery program that collects left over food from restaurants to give to homeless shelters.

“Food services is the largest donor to that program in Clarke County,” J. Michael Floyd, the executive director of food services said. “That is a way that we are very good stewards with our leftovers in order to make sure that they are used properly.”

Stacey Favors, program director of Full Plate, said they pick up food from the University daily and have been partnered with them since 1993.

“We are fortunate to be in a community that has a large institution that is willing to work with us,” he said. “Mr. Floyd is a good guy and very supportive of this program and has been from the beginning.”

Favors said the University provides 50 to 60 percent of the food they serve.

“A lot of [the agencies we serve] don’t have a full-time cook or staff. So the savings they get from this food they can use for services for the people,” he said. “We don’t give food to individuals, we give surplus food to non-profit agencies that provide services to homeless people and recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.”

Fry said the University monitors how much food is going to Full Plate because even though it is for charity, the dining halls want to be efficient. If they send too much, it would indicate that food services are overproducing.

Minimizing waste

But the University is not content with just making good use of their waste — they want to minimize it.

With so many students and an all-you-can eat style of dining, it is possible for large amounts of food, water and materials to be thrown away.  But according to Fry and Floyd, this is not the case at the University.

“There actually is a very small percentage of waste from the dining halls,” Floyd said.

He also said the University has a pulper system, essentially an industrial trash grinder to minimize trash volumes from the dining halls.

According to Floyd, since the pulper system has been in place, the dining halls are sending at least 70 percent less trash to the landfills.

The University also employs a computerized system which calculates how much of a given recipe to make based on historical trends of how much is consumed by students. Using this system, the dining halls try to minimize how much extra food is produced.

“We operate on a three-week cycle menu, and at the end of each meal period, we record how much we serve of each of those items so the next time it comes back up the system automatically goes back into its data base and will forecast for our chefs how much to prepare based on past eating trends of students,” Floyd said.

Sustainable habits

Floyd said the University took measures to minimize waste since before the trend of “sustainability” ever really took off.

“We have been very proactive in the things that we do,” Floyd said. “The computerized food production system was put in here in the 1970s.”

Fry said the University has been very proactive, the pulping systems were ahead of their time and the dining halls have recycled since the 1980s.

“We compost with the bio-conversion center on our pre-consumer waste from two of our kitchens, so we do lots and lots of things to make sure that waste is controlled,” Fry said.

Floyd said another way Food Services keep waste at a minimum is through napkin placement. He said putting napkins on the tables instead of by trays reduces consumption by 50 percent.

According to the Food Services website, it also consolidates most deliveries to a central storage facility, reducing delivery truck costs.

A student’s choice

But very little can be done to prevent uneaten food that is thrown away by students, according to Floyd.

“They choose to be our customers so I don’t think it’s our job to say ‘well you paid for this but now I don’t want you to take it,’” Fry said.

Ultimately, the dining halls are in the customer service business.

“At the end of the day it is the students’ decision,” Floyd said.

Students eat more during the first few weeks. As the semester goes on, they take less and eat healthier, according to Floyd.

“They start doing things in moderation,” Fry said.

Some students such as Joseph Neder, a freshman business major from Jones Creek, attempt to become part of the clean-tray club.

“I’d say 90 percent of the food I get, I eat.  Probably one meal a day I’ll eat everything I get,” Neder said.

Neder said he feels throwing away lots of food is a waste, but doesn’t believe students really care to minimize how much they waste.

“Everyone is guilty of it, but if kids could learn to know what they eat and know how to manage it that would be good,” Neder said. “But I don’t think students care.  Since its unlimited they can go as often as they want, get seconds or thirds. I really don’t think they care.”

Kristen Petersen, a junior English major from Augusta, also said students frequently take more than they can eat.  And usually don’t even think about it.

“I think its kind of hard because you’re not really thinking about it when you’re getting the food and throwing it away,” she said. “But it probably is really wasteful.”