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Food Waste Interview with Penn State students

if food waste was a country
  • Have you worked to address food waste on campus before?

Yes, I have worked on this topic and my staff was also focused on food waste both in our Green Teams program and Eco-Reps program, plus our support of the Green2Go reusable container program.

  • What do you see as the biggest opportunity for addressing food waste on campus? Or in better promoting a sustainable solution?

Reducing the size of plates is often done in order to reduce portion size and thus food waste. But first we need to know (1) where is food waste coming from, what are the main sources: back of the kitchen, served food, student portions, events, etc. It's complicated and needs to be studies (2) why food is waste from these sources and (3) what are the best approaches to limiting or eliminating food waste. I recommend that Dining Services hires a student intern to be a Food Waste Champion to address this issue.

  • What do you think is the most receptive educational tool for sustainable solutions? (e.g. a section in a student handbook, a required video training, a guest speaker, etc.)

Depends if you are talking about educating large groups of students (thousands or tens of thousands) or small groups of students (50 – 100 or less). For large groups, a well-done video training built on the best learning science with dynamic testing and interaction. For smaller groups, a 1-hour training with dynamic testing, small group discussion and tours of the dining services to see first-hand and identify sources of food waste.

  • What do you think is the biggest opportunity for addressing food waste within Hospitality Services?

It won't be one thing that solves the problem. I know they have already done many things to reduce food waste and compost what is left. It will require further structural changes to make sure ingredients are sourced responsibly and don't spoil in transport or in storage. It will require behavioral changes in how menus are developed and food is prepared to minimize waste. And it will require educating employees on a continuous basis, providing them with data on how progress is being made and engaging and educating customers each step of the way, from when they enter a space, to the menu, to the server-customer interaction, to when they leave the space. They will need to make it fun, professional and linked to the brand image they are developing in the hospitality industry.

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