News Ohio University

Shively dining hall food audit shows students waste slightly less than in years past

Food being thrown away in Ohio University’s Jefferson Dining Hall. File Photo. Note: This photo was not taken during an OU food audit.

By Kelly Doran, CG News

Last week’s look into food waste at Shively Court dining hall showed that Ohio University students are wasting less food on average than in years past at different dining halls.

Members of the OU Office of Sustainability conducted a food audit, a measurement of wasted food, from May 16 to 19 at Shively to find how much food students throw away at dinner.

Caitlin Wright and Grant Thompson, interns at the Office of Sustainability, conducted the audit with the staff at Shively. The Shively staff wanted to know if the new self-serve options were a good change to the dining hall in regards to waste, Wright said.

On Monday, 1,515 diners threw out an average of 4.8 ounces of food per person. On Tuesday, 1,457 diners wasted an average of 5.22 ounces per person. On Wednesday, 1,322 diners threw away an average of 5.09 ounces per person, and 1,350 diners threw out an average of 4.69 ounces per person on Thursday. The overall average was 4.95 ounces of food wasted per person per night.

In fall quarter 2010, Shively diners threw away 69,506 pounds of edible food, according to OU’s compost logs.

The Shively results are lower than those of the Nelson and Jefferson dining hall food audits conducted in 2009 and 2008, respectively. Students threw away between 4.68 and 5.54 ounces of food per meal at Nelson during a food audit in October 2009. During a 2008 food audit of Jefferson, students threw away between 4.52 and 6.29 ounces.

Every year, dining services staff audits the amount of food thrown away to find ways to reduce waste. Shively has been the only hall audited this year.

Thompson, Wright and up to five volunteers blocked-off the area where diners take their dishes. The interns and volunteers collected plates from the diners, put the waste into bins and weighed the bins to find the total food waste.

They did not tell the diners what the Office of Sustainability was doing on Monday and Tuesday to make sure the results were not skewed.

On Wednesday, the office held “Tray-less Wednesday,” but still did not tell the diners what was happening. The staff removed trays from the dining hall to see what effect, if any, it would have on total food waste.

Thursday was an education day. Volunteers put crowns on the heads of people with clean plates and took pictures of them, Wright said. Crowned students were entered into a drawing to win a solar-powered cell phone charger or a gift certificate to Donkey Coffee or Fluff Bakery.

The interns and volunteers also conducted surveys, and those who filled out a survey were entered into a drawing to win a gift certificate for Avalanche! Pizza.

To find volunteers, the Office of Sustainability sent an email out through the Green Network, a group of OU students, faculty and staff committed to furthering sustainability initiatives on campus. The office also tapped students required to perform service hours for their campus organizations.

There were many little components to the process the office had to figure out, Wright said.

“It was so fun to put together,” she said, and added that the process was very rewarding.

“It went very well,” Thompson said. “We didn’t really run into that many snags.”