Home Campus Did you notice what’s missing from the dining halls this year?

Did you notice what’s missing from the dining halls this year?

5 min read
Boyd Dining Hall on West Green. File photo by Connor Perrett.

Shively chicken tenders, Nelson breakfast and Boyd smoothies are all still available in Ohio U’s dining halls. But one fundamental part of the eating experience has disappeared. 

Starting with its first summer meal on May 7, Ohio University became “trayless” in an attempt to reduce food waste and improve campus sustainability efforts.

The three dining halls at Ohio U see a lot of traffic. Just last year, 1,881,751 meals were served between them. According to studies conducted by the Ohio U Office of Sustainability, this year alone, Ohio U is projected to waste one million pounds of food, all of which goes directly to the compost facility.

The initiative was proposed by Culinary Services Student Advisory Committee (CSDC) and students from the Office of Sustainability, Pittman said. CSDC is a student focus group comprised of various members of Student Senate, Residence Hall Council and other organization leaders across campus.

During the 2016 spring semester, two Ohio U students, Bridget Stocker and Sabrina Canchola, conducted a set of “trayless” dining experiments at Nelson Court during the 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. lunch hour, Ohio U spokesperson Daniel Pittman said. During their baseline food waste survey last February, Stocker and Canchola found that 71 percent of all students used a tray and that 30.5 pounds of food per 100 students were wasted.

“Stocker and Canchola found that when trays were removed, 4.7 pounds less food per 100 students were wasted,” Pittman said in email.

“Using the same 1,881,751 meals served last year number, that translates into 88,442 pounds less food wasted.”

The removal of trays doesn’t only have an effect on food waste, but also the amount of water wasted washing the trays. Stocker and Canchola found that one tray requires 0.33 gallons to clean it. Nearly two million meals were served last year, and Stocker and Canchola estimated that roughly 440,894 gallons of water were spent on the trays.

Connor Henderson, a senior studying communication, uses trays almost every time he eats at the dining halls.  

“It’s really annoying to carry different individual plates to and from the table. Also, the majority of spills I see are from people not carrying food on trays,” Henderson said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But for the few students who are opposed to the initiative, Pittman says that trays are available for those who request one. There are around 1,000 trays in each dining hall for those who still need them.  

This decision makes Ohio U part of a large trend on college campuses across the U.S. More than half of the 300 colleges and universities with the largest endowments have removed trays from their dining halls, either completely or partially, according to the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

The Student Senate Environmental Commission also has other sustainability efforts it plans to put in motion this year, Environmental Commissioner Lydia Ramlo said. Plans to improve composting on campus, cut down on plastic bag usage and start a waste reduction education campaign in the dorms are all on the agenda. Student Senate also has an opportunity to be part of the decision on what the university should repurpose Tier 2 lands on the Ridges for.

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