Dining Services takes steps to reduce food waste

Posted by Bradley Morris

This semester, Skidmore's Dining Services has made great efforts to reduce the amount of food wasted by students. As those who frequent the Dining Hall this semester may have noticed, the staff has been putting meals with preset portions on six-inch plates, rather than the full-size 9-inch plates used during previous academic years.

Director of Dining Services, Bill Canney explained the main reason why Dining Services reduced portion sizes and switched to smaller plates.

"It's to reduce waste. It's that simple," Canney said.

This method is not unique to Skidmore's Dining Hall, however.

"The national trend is to do exactly that. A lot of colleges and universities are doing this to reduce waste. Even restaurants are going with smaller portions," Canney said.

This was a popular decision in the Dining Hall, and it was approved by all of the staff when addressed this summer.

Several stations in the dining hall use the smaller plates, but the change is not universal for all stations. "A lot of people don't understand what they should take in terms of portions, but I think changes in portion sizes need to be done everywhere in the dining hall," said Eric Ness who works in Dining Services.

Ness pointed to some aesthetic drawbacks with the smaller plates. "I don't think the small plates present well. The smaller size is a dessert plate. It doesn't look appealing. You eat with your eyes first," Ness said.

Ben Niese, also of Dining Services, felt the answer might be in a median plate size. "The small plate is 6 inches; the big plate is 9. I think if they could get a plate that was 7.5 inches that would be perfect," Niese said.

"I would draw your attention to the food waste survey that was done last year. There were easily five hundred plus pounds of food waste over breakfast, lunch and dinner. That's people electing to take food they are not going to eat, whether consciously or unconsciously," Niese said.

"I think it's good, but I don't think we've ironed all the kinks out," Niese said.

Canney brought up secondary reasons for the change in plate sizes aside from reducing food waste. The change to smaller plates was also due to the rising costs of food and the increased awareness and attempts at eating healthier portions of food.

In past years, The Environmental Action Club, with support from Dining Services, has conducted a weeklong study to see how much food the College wastes. According to Canney, during the three studies during the last three years, food waste has not reduced at all.

Dining Services hopes that, when the study is completed this year, the changes will reduce the Dining Hall's food waste. At this point, according to Canney, "It is too early to say."

"I think that it can be effective in cutting down food waste just because if you use big plates, then students will frequently fill of the entire plate and not eat all the food," Chris Tripoli ‘13 said.

Not every student thought the idea was implemented the right way. "I like the idea, [but] they put so much food on the plates that it feels like it will fall off the plate," Emily Paull '13 said.

Thus far, Dining Services has been able to maintain the new policy and has kept the portion sizes reduced.


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