Americans throw away an average of 20 pounds of food each month, costing a family of four more than $2,000 a year. The federal government has no overarching plan to address the waste at a meaningful level.
But MU is addressing it, at least in microcosm, by reducing food waste on campus.
In summer 2011, Campus Dining Services implemented a system in their residential dining locations that reduces food waste on campus by more than 15,000 pounds each month, said Julaine Kiehn, director of Campus Dining.
What’s the secret? Campus Dining took the trays away.
Before the dining halls went trayless, many students loaded a tray with two to three bowls and dishes piled with food and two to three beverages, including sugary drinks, Kiehn said.
But their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. The leftovers went in the garbage. More than 664,000 pounds of food, or approximately 55,000 pounds a month, were dumped in the 12 months prior to trayless dining, Kiehn said.
After stopping tray use, food waste dropped by approximately 6,000 pounds per month. Now, in the service’s second full year of trayless dining, food waste has been reduced by an additional 9,000 pounds per month.
“While we are conserving food, the trayless dining system also is saving money for the students,” Kiehn said. “Because we are buying less food, our food costs are staying steady even though food prices have risen dramatically. Therefore, we can minimize the increase in the cost of dining plans, which ultimately benefits students.”
In addition to conserving food, Campus Dining is conserving energy with the new dining system, said Michael Wuest, marketing manager for Campus Dining.
“When we had trays in our dining system, we were using a considerable amount of water and dish detergent to wash them,” he said. “Now that we have gone trayless, we are saving around 100,000 gallons of fresh water every year because we are washing less trays and dishes.”
Campus Dining also is helping prevent overeating among college students. Last Friday in Rollins Dining Hall, most students had a plate, a dish and one beverage. Students realize they only need one or two plates of food to fill their stomachs, Kiehn said. “They are becoming conscious consumers.”
To help students be more health-conscious about food choices, Campus Dining launched Zoutrition, an online site packed with nutrition facts about healthful dining.
The information can also be accessed through the Go Mizzou app, which can be downloaded in the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace using smartphones.
To watch video of MU going trayless, click here.