A study last fall by a food science class at Chadron State College revealed that students in the school dining hall threw away almost 275 pounds of food in a 3 day period..
Food science professor Dr Erin Norman worked with director of dining services Senthil Rajamani to determine the extent of food waste and raise awareness of the carbon emissions from food waste when it decays.
Norman divided her students into 3 groups covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner and recording that meal’s food waste and number of diners.
Breakfast averaged 91 people eating and just under 15 pounds of waste per day for a total of 44.5-pounds. Lunch drew about 215 diners and 43.5 pounds of waste while dinner averaged 33 pounds of waste. The number of dinner diners wasn’t kept.
Norman’s students offered reasons in their final report for the waste including students not liking or being dissatisfied with the food, overestimating how hungry they were, and large serving sizes.
They also suggested ways to cut down food waste, such as a digital and print media awareness campaign on food waste and incentives to waste less food.
The report had 2 suggestions specifically for Rajamani and CSC food services: smaller portions and making sure the food served tastes good and is what the students want.
Norman says she and her students were pleasantly surprised by one thing they learned about food waste at Chadron State College ; instead of being put in dumpsters, it’s donated to local farmers as compost.
As for the overall problem of food waste, Norman says studies like this are good because “You don’t know what you don’t know, and so if everyone is a little more conscious, improvements can be made” to reduce waste and greenhouse gasses.
She adds that the assignment also gave her students a chance to get a closer look and new perspectives of the inner workings of the dining industry.