Bayer noted that, in a typical day, 500 to 600 students dump their food waste into the trash cans. Over the course of a year, these bins accumulate 600 to 700 tons of excess food, Director of Building Services Jon Baer said.
Each dining hall does its best to determine the appropriate amount of food to minimize waste, Dining Services Director Stu Orefice said in an e-mail. Ultimately, however, much of the requisite money and time put into the preparation of students’ dinners is wasted, thrown to the pigs with students’ dregs.
Orefice explained that dining hall chefs choose new recipes and create the year’s menus with a program called FoodPro, which “also captures food that is not consumed for future reference.”
FoodPro, whose statistics date back to the mid-1980s, keeps track of the number of patrons eating in dining halls as well as specific information, such as a given dish’s protein content. Dining hall chefs generally use FoodPro statistics from the past two to three years to project the number of meals each college should serve, Orefice said.
But, Orefice noted, the predictions are never perfect.
Cooked food that is not served is “generally placed in our barrels that are designated for [a] pig farmer or placed in pans” for use by the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) force, Orefice explained. TASK meets twice a week to collect food from the residential colleges and bring it to a Trenton soup kitchen for distribution.
While useful, the group actually collects little excess food, Bayer said, because of strict health requirements.
“In every shift I’ve worked, I’ve never seen any food sent to Trenton,” Bayer said. “Sometimes I ask, but [TASK members] say that due to health regulations, they can’t accept it.”
Rocky-Mathey student manager Molly Herring ’10 noted that any food that reaches the servery cannot be saved, though dishes that were uncooked or unserved may be stored for future use.
“I haven’t heard of any of our excess food going to soup kitchens. Basically, if it’s fit to use, we’ll use it. If it’s not fit to use, we’ll throw it out. So, pretty much all of our food waste goes to the pigs,” Herring said. TASK members did not respond to requests for comment.
Four to five times a week, farmer Neil McIntyre collects the food that students discard, which feeds between 600 and 1,000 pigs each day.
“It’s really a great recycling program that benefits both the University and me,” McIntyre said.
Herring noted that students’ trays are responsible for half of the discarded food at Rocky-Mathey, while the rest is food not taken from stations in the servery.
Ultimately, Bayer added, it comes down to students controlling how much food they put on their trays.
“If students wasted a lot less, the dining halls could prepare less,” he said. “If we only take what we know we’re going to eat, it’d definitely help a lot.”