This is how Syracuse University can limit food waste – The Daily Orange

This is how Syracuse University can limit food waste – The Daily Orange

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Have you ever made a purchase at a dining hall and wondered what happens to the leftover food? The answer: it turns into food waste.

Everything comes down to consumer behavior when looking at the issue of food waste on college campuses, said Aaron Adalja, assistant professor of food and beverage management at Cornell University. In most cases, it’s all about the student population and their individual interactions with these food spaces. And now, with COVID-19, the issue has worsened.

“There is minimal opportunity for on-premise dining, if any, so most of it is take-away. You reserve it, you order online, you come, pick it up, you either bring it back to your dorm or whatever it may be. The problem is it’s a set portion size. There’s not much flexibility,” Adalja said.

Take-away food options come in a set portion size, which doesn’t provide much flexibility, Adalja said. Taking away students’ ability to pick portions for themselves may actually increase waste. 


One solution to reduce waste would involve reimagining how take-out options are provided through menus, Adalja said. 

“One thought that comes to mind is creating a menu that has multiple size options. It might seem super simple — because it is,” Adalja said.

Having the ability to choose a specific amount of food is not the only solution. Recognizing the benefit of leftovers is important when it comes to eliminating food waste. If students are mainly eating in their personal living spaces, such as dorms or off-campus apartments, there is a viable opportunity for the food they eat to be saved for later.

“Thinking about smart ways to package so that it sort of motivates students rather than throwing things away to save it for later is going to be key,” Adalja said.

The power of convenience is something Adalja thinks may also influence the way in which people, including students, interact with food. Schools should think about how to make it easier for students to avoid wasting food, Adalja said.

Improving convenience goes beyond just considering how a meal is packaged. As COVID-19 continues to impact nearly every part of our lives, meal plans should be examined, too.

“From an administrative standpoint, you might start thinking about how meal plans should be structured in a pandemic. How should meal plans be structured if people are not dining on-premise?” Adalja said.

Meal plans can be replaced with a pay-by-weight system, Adalja said. With this, students will become more cautious of buying only what they know they will eat.

Students are not the only ones interacting with food directly and recognizing the prevalence of food waste.

While there is an issue of food waste on college campuses, it’s no different than what people are dealing with in their own homes, said Mateo Cardenas-Clarimon, an SU graduate student and food service worker at SU’s and Pages Cafe. 

“I know that did a pretty good job. I know that they labeled everything in the Deli, Queso, and Smoothie, the date that it was prepared and would expire,” Cardenas-Clarimon said.

Nonetheless, food is still going to waste on SU’s campus. The issue needs to be solved. Students can do better by saving their leftovers. Administrators of SU’s Food Services can implement more efficient packaging and meal plan options. 

As an academic community, we’re more than capable of finding solutions to food waste. Solutions that can help many people who may be suffering in silence. Solutions that address the environmental impact of waste. How we choose to address this issue isn’t important, it’s just a matter of doing so.

Camille Daniels is a graduate student in the magazine, newspaper, and online journalism program. Her column appears biweekly. She can be reached at

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Published at Wed, 10 Feb 2021 03:56:08 +0000

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