Monday, September 8, 2008

Trayless Dining

I ate lunch in the Lasell College faculty dining room today. While students were engaged in heated discussions about Obama's energy plan and the conflict in Georgia, the removal of trays from the dining hall dominated the conversation at the faculty tables. Many faculty members were quite disturbed by the move by Sodexo to take away trays to reduce food waste. I heard comments such as "How will I carry hot soup?" and "I don't want to have to make two trips." I overheard a wide variety of concerns.

I left the dining hall and decided to poll students in class. I asked them how students have reacted to the removal of trays. One student replied, "I didn't even notice." Another student commented that she never used a tray anyway because she only eats one plate of food. In my unscientific polling I didn't find a single student that was upset or bothered by the lack of trays.

There is limited data on the impact of removing trays and food waste. I spoke with Todd Wixson at Pittsburgh State University today and he has measured the impact and found a 60% reduction in food waste without trays. 60% is a huge reduction. Aramark has done a survey of the practice at 25 institutions and found trayless dining reduced food waste by 25-30% per person.

At Lasell, it is clear that the lack of trays is not troubling to the student body. Upperclassmen have adjusted to the system and first year students know no other system. I completely support Sodexo and the decision to remove the trays. It is clear that it has the potential to significantly reduce food waste which will allow Sodexo to provide higher quality food. It is also one of the first tangible steps that has been taken on our campus to make this a more sustainable place to live, work, and study.

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