Stemming food waste is in students’ hands

Elizabeth Kix

As students swarm into dining centers for as many as three meals per day, ISU Dining student workers and cooks keep shoveling more food into pots and pans, then dishing the products onto the food line for hungry students looking to fill their plates.

Some students pack on a hamburger, fries, pasta, mixed vegetables and cottage cheese until the tray is full – almost overflowing. As they sit down with friends, they say “Oh, I am starving. I have barely eaten all day.”

After eating part of their food, they soon realize they are full, they pick at the rest and then send their dishes down the revolving dish line for the dishwashers.

Meanwhile, more food is being cooked.

When considering the waste of food each dining hall sees every day, some may assume the garbage disposals and trash bags must be filled with uneaten, sometimes even untouched, food. While some ISU Dining students say food waste is minimal, others say a ridiculous amount of food is being tossed.

Bridget Funk, sophomore in biology and student supervisor for ISU Dining, said she feels ISU Dining does not throw a lot of food away.

“From what I have seen, ISU Dining does a very good job of using everything they can without being unsanitary,” she said. “I would say the majority of the wasted food is from the students taking too much when they fill their trays and then sending them down the dish line, which we can’t reuse, so it gets disposed of.”

Other ISU Dining student workers of past and present disagree, saying wasting food is a part of their job description.

Will Dean, who worked for ISU Dining from early 2006 to March 2007 and is now an ISU alumnus, remembers tossing a lot of food away.

“Yes [I’ve noticed food being thrown away], both from people not eating it and from unserved food,” Dean said. “Most of the foods that are being reused are the meats and breads, while the sauces, veggies, potatoes and fish were all getting tossed. Often, the breads are pretty stale after a day or so, too.”

Daphne Clabaugh, ISU Dining employee and junior in French, said ISU Dining is getting better about throwing food away.

“Compared to last year, there is much less food being disposed of. Some of the venues are preparing smaller portions for the students to take, so less is being thrown away,” she said. “Foods like pasta and sides are disposed of most often.”

In waste prevention, some dining centers are also putting up signs to remind students not to take so much.

Ryan Osterberger, manager of food services for ISU Dining, said that during the first few weeks of school, the cooks and student workers were preparing much less food than is normal. For example, only one side could be offered, rather than two. After four weeks, the menu at UDCC will be expanded to offer more food choices.

Osterberger said less food is being thrown away in the kitchen than some people may think.

“We can control food production more at UDCC because we make it right in front of the students and know when to add more,” he said.

Osterberger said he knew of alternative plans that could be used to dispose of old food. Last year, he said, the UDCC tried a pilot program for one semester in which they gave old vegetable waste to a young man using it for educational and experimental purposes. Since then, no other alternatives have arisen, but Osterberger hopes to see other programs.

When looking at ordering charts from UDCC, Oak-Elm and Maple-Willow-Larch – the less-used dining centers – are receiving much less food, cutting costs and preventing excessive waste.

Allison Fank, ISU Dining employee and junior in dairy science, believes students can help.

“Students come in and think they can eat a lot, but after chatting with friends and relaxing, they see the bus for their next class and hurry out the door. If they just didn’t take as much, they could prevent a lot of waste,” she said.