Every day, the caf makes approximately 2000 pounds of food to serve nearly 1800 meals. Every day, students and caf employees alike pile plates full to satisfy student appetites. Every day, a large portion of food is thrown away by students.
With Green Fund emails filling student inboxes looking for proposals, and a private food pantry on campus to feed those in need, it would seem that the University of Montevallo is not about waste. But that does not necessarily reflect the student body.
Falcon Foods (also known as Chartwells) has made efforts to incorporate an eco-friendly mindset in their kitchens in order to cause as little waste as possible. Through careful food portioning, sending an estimated 65 gallons of uncooked leftover vegan food product to the university’s community garden on a weekly basis, reinstalling a recycling program for all food-related cardboard, sending 95% of used frying oil to be used as biodiesel and exercising a more controlled serving size on student plates, Falcon Foods is already seeing a significant waste reduction since their arrival in 2013. But there still seems to be a problem.
Caf employees stand with smiles, waiting to serve students exactly what those students wish to eat from each day’s menu. Scott Giddens, director of dining services, says some days students find a dish especially tasty and eat so much the kitchen has to alter the menu and come up with more food on the spot in order to keep serving.
Some days are busts for the caf and very few students will eat what they are served. This requires Giddens and his head chef, Jason Quarles, to re-evaluate menu planning. Some days students will go and serve themselves and end up throwing away the same food they started with.
Haley Myers, a junior at Montevallo, claims to request smaller portions from the servers in the caf, says she is often served more than she can eat in one meal. Some, Quarles reports, request larger portions. Giddens says he is actively working through the continued absence of food trays and communication with caf servers to control smaller portions so that students can request more of something. “It is our goal to reduce throwing food away, not to stop students from eating,” he said.
Whether students enjoy the food or not, there is a significant amount of food waste every day. “The conveyor belt reflects that,” according to Quarles. The exact amount of waste is calculable, but Giddens says determining that amount will require student effort and should be a project planned a semester in advance.
Giddens believes one organization students can participate in that tends to help in this area, whether through utilization of the community garden or through reinstallment of the reusable to-go containers, is the Environmental Club. The Environmental Club serves this community to help promote an eco-friendly environment. Students can join the the club to help be involved in stopping some waste and help raise awareness.
Students wishing to help take part in reducing food waste can be more conscious of what they take from that day’s menu. Giddens says the average stomach can only hold approximately 18 ounces and caf servers work based off that.
Students can be proactive about serving sizes. If it’s too much, they can say so. If it’s not enough, they can also speak up. They can also watch what they serve themselves. “Students are the fuel for change,” said Giddens.