Trash talk: Less food waste with trayless initiative

In a presentation to Dr. Woody Webb on Oct. 21, Olivet Dining Services Dietetic Intern Jamie Neben illustrated how Olivet is using two and half times less food since the implementation of Sodexo’s trayless initiative.

During a portion of dinnertime on Sept. 28, a follow-up study was conducted to determine the difference in food waste post-removal. Olivet Dining Services Manager Brice Grudzien told The GlimmerGlass about this study earlier this semester; he explained that it would take place on the same day and same time as the food waste study conducted last semester which was a catalyst for the initiative.

According to Neben, the original study found that 116 pounds of food were wasted with 756 students in the dining room, while in the follow-up study, only 56.8 pounds of food were wasted for 964 students—a 60.8* percent decrease in waste.

The search for sustainable solutions for food waste is ongoing. Removing the trays was the first step— “Prevention”— in a “Hierarchy of Solutions” described by Neben. Prevention “reduces surplus at the source,” which Sodexo has been actively committed to in more than one way. One of the strategies set to accomplish this is batch cooking, producing food to order as students file through the dining room.

Neben recommends recovery, also called reuse, as Sodexo’s next step. She believes the best way to accomplish recovery is through donation to food charities. An option that Sodexo has looked into is a partnership with the Campus Kitchen Project, which works to “recover food from cafeterias and engage students as volunteers,” according to the Project’s website. While there are often issues of legality that come into play with such initiatives, Grudzien wants to “investigate the possibility more.”

Reducing food waste is one aspect of Olivet’s active conservation efforts. Student Development Vice President Woody Webb describes it as “a part of the ongoing initiatives to conserve.” Webb points to other environmentally-sustainable measures that are in place on campus, such as climate control units regulating room temperatures based on usage and the geothermal heating of the Perry Center through underground water. He believes that conservation issues such as the removal of trays are made possible with the support of the Associated Student Council.

ASC Student Body President Kaleb Miller believes that such efforts are reflective of Olivet’s culture and campus. “We’re called to be good stewards,” he said.

Miller is especially glad that many students are on board with the trayless initiative. Brice Grudzien agreed and noted the value of the communication of the initiative’s goals to students.

“It’s all about working together,” Grudzien said.

*Sodexo originally reported that there was a 258 percent reduction


— Elizabeth Garret

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