Serving Waste

While we’ve talked about traylessness for a while, that’s not the only way to reduce college food waste. It appears that whether or not the food is self-serve or dished out by cafeteria staff makes a world of difference. At least it did at East Tennessee State.

One dining hall at the Johnson City school switched to staff service and found that it cut waste in half. Unfortunately, the article fails to explain exactly how they prevented so much waste, so we’ll have to speculate:

photo by nathan rein via creative commonsFirst, students are more likely to overindulge when they’re serving themselves. It’s the classic eyes vs. stomach conundrum.

On a similar note, a little outside influence goes a long way. Students may not take three scoops if they have to ask someone else for it.

Third, there’s less cross-contamination. For example, someone uses the soup ladle to spoon out mashed potatoes, leading to workers not being able to reuse the spuds the next day.

On the flip side, students being served might receive more than they’d like. Light eaters might want less than the standard dollop. And it prevents students from taking the specific piece they’d want. For example, a crusty edge versus a middle piece of lasagna.

But staff service isn’t necessarily a blunt method. When I visited St. Joseph’s College, I was impressed that the staff asked diners how much they wanted. It was sort of like the Subway approach, with the staff serving as lunch line artists.

What’s your take on self- versus staff-service?

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