Colby Sodexo’s waste process: environmentally sound?

As you chow down on dinner in your preferred dining hall, do you ever consider how that food ended up on your plate? Or what happens to the leftovers? Beyond what students see on an everyday basis lies a complex system of meal planning and execution.
Manager of Foss Dining Hall Terry Landry explained how Sodexo feeds over 1,800 students every day, and the pros and cons of having not one but three dining halls. “It can be challenging when you have three dining halls; you don’t always know where kids are going to go,” Landry said, “so we look at the data.”
He talked about how there are always popular times for specific dining halls that attract more students than usual. It’s well known that when Foss puts “Buffalo Chicken Wraps” on the menu, the dining hall will be much more crowded for lunch that day. “I knew that the Harry Potter dinner would draw about 600 kids [to Foss Dining Hall] because that’s how many have come in past years.”
The annual Harry Potter “Great Hall” dinner, which takes place in late October, brings in not only a multitude of students but also faculty and staff members because of its unique, fun and interactive theme.
Every day, the staff creates a production sheet for breakfast, lunch and dinner at each dining hall. A compilation of data from several previous years allows staff to estimate necessary quantities for each meal. For example, for lunch at Foss on Oct. 31, Sodexo estimated that 364 students would eat there. Therefore, the staff estimated that they would need 128 portions of soup, 100 turkey wraps and 40 vegan wraps.
Sodexo reviews these estimates during staff meetings and compares them to the actual amount of food consumed.
Even with estimates, the system gives some flexibility in determining how much food they should produce on any given day. Sodexo adjusts the original estimates as a meal progresses. For instance, if the staff originally estimated that they would need to cook 40 pans of rice, but students were consuming less rice than predicted, they scratch their original plans and instead cook only 38 pans in order to conserve food.
In conjunction with the College’s environmental initiative, Sodexo strives to prevent waste in the dining halls. First, Sodexo recycles all plastic food service supplies, as well as all paper items from the kitchen. If food remains in a serving pan at the end of a meal, the leftovers, along with napkins and food waste from individual plates, are composted and sent to New England Organics in Unity, Maine.
If there are any untouched serving dishes of food left over, they are chilled and most often reused within three days. Otherwise, these dishes of food are also composted and sent to New England Organics.
When the College closes for vacations, such as fall break, Sodexo donates all leftover food to soup kitchens, including Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter and Good Shepherd Food Bank.
“Food is sacred. Food is medicine. And we have to honor that,” Landry said. “We really don’t want to waste food. We wouldn’t be good stewards if we did that.”

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