Texas Tech University is fighting a common problem on college campuses: food waste.
Food on college campuses can range from cafeteria-style meals to fast food, but no matter what the culinary experience, it is likely that food waste is prominent.
According to Sodexo, a food management service, Americans trashed 25% of all food they prepared in 2010, leading to 31 million tons of wasted food piling up in landfills. The data may be old, but the trend remains the same. Texas Tech University Student Government Association President, Alex Alston, said all unused cooked food on campus is thrown away.
“I don’t know exact numbers, but I know it’s a lot,” said Alston. “In any food operation you plan for more than what you need.”
Tech Hospitality is a daily operation, Alston said, so at the end of every day any left over food is thrown away. Food is purchased in bulk for financial purposes. “They’re a business so they’re going to want to find the cheapest way to purchase their product,” he added.
Tech Executive Chef, DeWayne McMurrey, said food waste can be tricky in Texas because of state regulations. “Food waste is a tough one,” McMurrey said, “because in places like New York they recycle everything, they all have their own bins and you get fined if you don’t separate them, but here in Texas we just have too much land and don’t have to hide our trash.”
McMurrey said food is delivered to campus three times a week to optimize the freshness of food served on campus. “Everything’s really as fresh as we can get it and keep it, because we order a lot,” McMurrey said.
Tosha Foster, the purchasing and contracting manager, said Tech orders enough food to last two days before the new shipment comes in on the third day. When a new shipment is delivered, all left over fresh food is donated to the local food bank.
“We’ve done it that way for years and years,” Foster said. “We call them anytime we’re going into any kind of break.”
There are little tricks to cutting down on food waste, however. According to Aramark Food Services, tray-less dining reduces waste by approximately two ounces per person, per meal. Foster said the tray-less system is used in several units on campus to limit food consumed.
“We’ve found that (going tray-less) limits food waste as well,” Foster said, “It forces the student to think about what they’re grabbing, so they’re not making eight trips up there, and they’re more likely to sit and eat that and they’re full before they make that next trip.”
As of spring 2012, more than 300 colleges and universities served by Aramark throughout North America have removed trays from their dining halls, diverting more than 15 million pounds of food waste from landfills this year, according to the Aramark website.
But even though new programs are being explored, it is hard to recycle unused cooked food because of sanitary issues, said Alston. “Food is kind of a touchy subject to get into because you don’t want to create any harm to the people that (left over) food is being fed to,” he said.
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