Laying waste to food waste

If one swipe gives you access to an all-you-can-eat cafeteria, why take just one plate?

Each week, over 39,000 students, staff and community members visit the Ferris State dining halls. A traffic flow that size creates the question, how much food is needed to satisfy these guests and how much is wasted?

With this issue revolving around tens of thousands of people, it’s hard to imagine food isn’t ending up in the trash. Despite this, Ferris’ Food and Dining Services team members work diligently to eliminate food waste.

“We have been able to minimize our food waste by implementing multiple procedures,” said Ferris Dining Services assistant director Michael Langan. “We cook everything in front of our guests. Nothing is prepared in the ‘back of the house,’ which ensures the food is as fresh as possible, and we instituted a trayless system so guests now take and waste far less.”

Many other procedures have been put into place, mainly at The Rock Café and The Quad Café. Both dining halls feature a computerized menu system that tracks usage and necessity based on historical data. The cooks also prepare all food in small batches to prevent unserved food.

A major focus in terms of preventing wasted food is proper storage. Dining Services team members monitor the condition of the food at all times, preventing waste due to heating or cooling issues. Food is always prepared as fresh as possible and in small portions to prevent unserved waste.

“We receive deliveries five days a week from approved vendors to serve only the freshest products,” said Langan. “We have very little unserved food due to the small batch cooking procedure. Any small batches left are examined to determine if the quality is high enough for proper cooling and reheating. We only dispose of food that would not be worthwhile or safe to attempt this.”

These guidelines follow ServSafe rules, in which many of the dining halls’ full-time staff are certified. Any food that can be saved is safely stored and prepared again. If not, the leftover food goes into a pulper for recycling. The food pulper was installed at The Quad Café and has been a major success; The Rock Café will be receiving one over spring break this upcoming year.

Each procedure put into place plays a small role in a major concept. Combine them all, and there isn’t much food left over to waste.

“At one time, entire cases of food were thrown out due to inaccurate estimates of usage, as well as overproduction. Our guests would also take more food than they could eat when we offered trays,” explained Langan. “Our procedures all minimize waste and reduce costs to our guests. Virtually all of the unserved or wasted food is properly saved.”