University cuts waste, saves $300,000 in food costs in just 10 weeks
All-you-can-eat buffet style dining is a great luxury for students and provides a wealth of choices on a daily basis. But like the rest of us, students’ eyes can often be bigger than their stomachs.
It’s common for students to pile onto their cafeteria trays a bowl of soup, a salad, an entree, dessert and maybe even a bowl of cereal for good measure. The problem, however, is that whatever doesn’t get eaten gets tossed in the trash.
The folks at Rutgers University recognized this problem both in terms of food waste and fiscal loss. So, Rutgers has decided to join a growing roster of colleges and universities that are eliminating cafeteria trays in campus dining halls. The change helps save on everything from the cost of food and water to the sanitizer used to wash dishes.
Incredibly, a release on Rutgers’ official website estimates that in just 10 weeks following the removal of dining trays, the university has saved an estimated $300,000 — and that’s only at three of the four dining halls on the New Brunswick campus.
In addition to the food cost savings, Rutgers has also seen a 20% reduction in the amount of food students throw away after they eat. Rutgers serves roughly 130,000 meals a week, so the new policy has helped to prevent a significant amount of food from ending up in the trash.
Before the move, trays with picked over dessert, cold bowls of soup that were never touched, half eaten meals and glasses full of milk were a common sight. In an effort to make the best of the waste, Rutgers dining services pays a farmer from Hillsborough to haul away about 4 million pounds of waste each year to use as animal feed, rather than send the waste directly to a landfill.
Dining services had considered eliminating trays for some time. Rutgers dining officials say that over the years students themselves had suggested doing away with trays, joining a list of schools that includes the University of Michigan, Purdue, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and many more.
The initiative will result in tangible benefits for students as the savings on food costs help offset any increases in student meal plans and could be invested back into programs for students.