The Rock and Quad Cafés are Ferris’ sites for on campus dining, and though they provide food to students, they also waste a lot of food throughout the year.
“Most of our food waste … is post-consumer, which is when the customer takes too much food and we then throw it out in the dish room area,” Ferris Dining Director Scott J. Rosen said.
Another large amount of food waste comes at the end of the day, when the restaurants throw out remaining cooked food that customers haven’t taken. The Rock and Quad “follow the health department guidelines in how [they] handle this,” Rosen said. “If the product has been placed out, [they] have to discard this product.”
This rule extends beyond that of the Rock and Quad Cafés. Even if the food is about to be thrown out, student workers can’t take home any of it, according to the FDA. If customers don’t eat it during operating hours, student workers can’t eat any of it after hours.
To cut down on the amount of waste The Rock and Quad use “a menu management program that helps [them] forecast and purchase the right amount of food for each meal,” Rosen said. The Dining program has also “been in contact with a local composting farm and [has] been trying to work out the logistics and the cost effectiveness of using this type of outlet,” Rosen said.
Both locations are trying to use the food waste they create to help out with growing more food. They are also starting work on a food insecurity program for students on campus to help make sure everyone is getting the food they need.
This food insecurity program is early in planning, but there are already some ideas in place.
“One of the thoughts would be to set up a site online where students or faculty and staff could donate swipes from their express meal plan or F/S meal plan, and also their guest meal passes. These donations would go into a pool that was then divvied out to the student of need by a university official that would determine this,” Rosen said.
Another idea they’ve developed is for a donation system used to purchase meals for students in need. However, while ideas are in place, no definitive plans have been made.
Many students, and in particular student workers at the Rock Café who witness the food waste are concerned with the current process.
Ferris psychology senior Cassandra Rathbun, a former Rock employee said she “felt guilty having to throw away all the breakfast stuff [they] had. A whole pound of applesauce went into the trash every day. There was nothing wrong with it, [they] just had to throw it away.”
While some are concerned about throwing out prepared food, others are concerned about the food waste from customers.
“The food waste levels are higher than we would like. There are students who will grab a salad, drown it in ranch, take a bite out of it, and put it on the conveyor belt [to be thrown away],” Ferris biotechnology sophomore and Rock Café employee Malachi Lapham said. “There have been times as well where a group of people would order [from the Mongolian grill] only to realize it’s wing night and not even go back to grab what they ordered.”
When asked about the plans for the food insecurity program, Lapham said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go. Right now management is asking for $1 donations from the employees to help out, but I don’t know if it will help out as much as they are hoping if it’s limited only to a small pool of people.”
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