4 Creative Ways Colleges Are Lowering Food Waste

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Food waste is a problem everywhere—at restaurants and supermarkets, on food trucks, and in private homes. It isn't an issue restricted to the United States, either; almost every developed nation wastes a shocking amount of food. Schools are some of the biggest offenders due to how much food they need on hand in the first place. Because colleges and universities have significantly higher student bodies than primary or secondary schools, the waste occurs on a larger scale—and that's an understatement. To reduce the amount of food they waste, colleges are finally exploring different ways to cut down on the excess.

Farm-To-Table Food At College

If food isn't palatable, no one's going to eat it. That's true for students in elementary, middle school, and high school, it's true for kids at home or in the cafeteria, and it comes as no surprise that college students feel the same way. College kids pay a substantial amount for their meal plans, but far too many of them end up skipping the cafeteria altogether because the offerings simply aren't appealing. Instead of making use of their expensive meal plans, these kids have to spend more money they don't have to feed themselves on quick, convenient, and ultimately unhealthy foods, such as Ramen. To combat that issue, colleges and universities that want to reduce food waste choose to focus on seasonality. Insomuch as they are able, they incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats into their menus when those foods are at peak season. They only buy what they need, stick to seasonal produce, and study the food before making a purchase to figure out how they can use each item in other recipes.

Uneaten Food Gets Donated

No matter how college cafeteria staffs tighten their belts, there's always some amount of food that goes uneaten. That in and of itself isn't food waste—but when a college throws away all the uneaten food, that's senselessly wasteful. Some colleges now choose to donate leftovers and extra food to local shelters and charities. Homeless shelters, women's shelters, and establishments that help victims of domestic violence or LGBTQIA+ youth are all more than happy to accept donations of food and beverages.

The Social Media Menu

People can't eat food they don't know about, and students who have had bad experiences with cafeteria food or who hear stories about it won't come to eat it, either. As a result, university cafeterias and lunch programs take the social media approach. By publishing daily menus of all the cafeteria offerings, as well as details about what's available, colleges entice students and give them incentive to visit the cafeteria for their meals. In addition to posting on Facebook and Twitter, some colleges take photos of menu items and specials, which they post on Instagram or Snapchat.

Students' Opinions Matter

Most cafeterias don't consider what kids like. Certainly, students in secondary schools rarely get a say in what they're served for lunch or breakfast. Until very recently, no one listened to university students, either, in spite of the fact that they technically rely on their colleges for three square meals a day and they pay dearly to attend. Thankfully, a number of universities have realized the error of their ways. Through various means, these institutions ask for their students' opinions to figure out what they actually want to eat. Not only does this reduce food waste, but it also saves money for the colleges. There's no reason to keep buying an expensive menu item if no one enjoys it. Furthermore, listening to coeds' opinions helps to fill in the gaps with regards to what the cafeteria's missing, i.e. vegetarian or vegan options. Wasting food is about more than losing money. In a world where so many people go hungry, even in so-called developed areas, every morsel we throw away is regrettable. Can you think of other ways for colleges to cut down on food waste?