During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mount Holyoke College effectively adjusted their operations and used data tracking tools to prevent food waste. Between August 2020 and January 2021, the institution cut the food waste generated on campus by 49% by weight. As described by Leanpath, the private liberal arts college in western Massachusetts adapted to a number of changes during this time: a reduction in on-campus student population from 2,200 to 150; closing half of its dining stations while attempting to employ as many foodservice staff as possible; and changes in service styles.
Informed by ongoing food waste observation and data collection, the institution quickly identified areas of overproduction that contributed to unnecessary waste. Mount Holyoke College Dining Services shifted grill station operations from using items prepared in advance to offering made-to-order dishes, and realized twofold benefits: increased customer satisfaction with fresh meals and a reduction in waste.
Located at the end of a new one-way path, the kosher station addressed having excess leftovers by engaging students in testing new recipes and shifting menu items to popular choices. This motivated students to save room on their plate for items from this end-of-the-line station. Since these changes were made, weekly waste has declined at the grill station by 54% and at the kosher station by 78%.
Based on data, foodservice staff also addressed waste from specific ingredients. To address wasted rice, staff shifted to making smaller batches, allowing this item to run out at the end of a meal service, and incorporated leftovers into the fried rice station. Excess scrambled eggs and broccoli stems have since been added to this dish too. Vegetable trim waste was incorporated into juice bar items. Throughout this process, staff have been empowered to make adjustments and incorporate overproduced items into the next day’s meals to reduce waste.
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