Growing up in the U.S., Americans are born to consume. Because Americans are surrounded by an abundance of food, Americans can afford to discard forgotten week-old leftovers shoved to the back of the fridge and produce with small blemishes. Americans feel no shame in listening to the hungry gurgle of the garbage disposal, as the remains of third helpings are promptly dissolved. However, Juniata has sought to reduce its ecological footprint. Beginning in 2009, Sodexo implemented a new system to cut down on food waste in Baker and Muddy. Matthew Yoder, executive chef of Juniata’s dining services, provides a general overview of the system’s process and how Sodexo is gauging its food waste. While Juniata’s efforts to reduce waste have succeeded, students are also responsible for helping to reduce the amount of food that is thrown away.
Could you briefly explain how the new system works and what it’s trying to accomplish?
Our tracking system is called LeanPath and includes a scale with a computer interface attached. We have two stations to weigh–one in Main Kitchen and one in Muddy. The system tracks waste from every station, so when I run a report, I can tell where the food came from, who weighed it, what the food is, what time it was weighed, the weight, and the reason it is being discarded. Food waste is weighed after a particular prep task is completed and after meal times. We run a report once a week and display the reports in the kitchen so that employees can see where their efforts have made a difference and where additional effort needs to be made.
What exactly is considered to be “waste”?
There are two different types of waste: pre-consumer and post-consumer. Scraps or “Trim Waste”, as it is called in the LeanPath system, is waste generated from cutting vegetables and fruits, etc. This is pre-consumer waste. Post consumer waste that we do weigh, is food that has been out on the line in Baker and can no longer be used. For example, if the pizza line has half a pizza at closing that no student has claimed, we will weigh that as post-consumer.
How much food are students wasting and how can we help to reduce this waste?
We do not track the post-consumer food that has been left on students’ plates. However, if we did, it would range between 400-700 pounds weekly.On a typical day in Baker, that means every student is wasting 1.2ounces. Yes, this is a small amount but it adds up quickly. So, students can just take a little less food if they are unsure they will eat it. I understand that it is all you can eat in Baker and that students want to maximize meal plans, but a meal plan is bought to have the privilege of eating as much as you care to, not to waste as much as you care to.
By measuring the waste of each month vs. the baseline month from 2009 to the present, LeanPath has calculated the following statistics about Juniata’s food waste:
- Since 2009, food waste has decreased by 57 percent, which has saved Juniata $36,119.
- Juniata has eliminated 18 tons of Food Waste which is equivalent to about 3.5 Elephants.
- Juniata has avoided 13.83 MCO2 of air pollution, which is the same as the CO2 emissions from 1,407 gallons of gasoline.
-Hannah Jeffery ’16 Juniata Online Journalist