UNH uses software to help decrease dining hall food waste
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
With three dining halls on campus and various unlimited meal plans, the amount of food that is churned out of Holloway Commons, Philbrook Hall and Stillings Hall is quite bountiful. This brings forth the question, what is done with all of the extra food that doesn’t get eaten?
Accommodating the thousands of students who eat at the dining facilities on a daily basis can seem like a lot of work, but UNH dining staff members are able to do just that, and without much excess food that goes to waste. Director of dining services, Jon Plodzik, said that a lot of their food efficiency comes from a software program.
“We employ a food production software called FoodPro to help determine the food quantities needed based on our menu and acceptability data driven via each item’s recipe,” Plodzik said. “Food waste as a whole is very little at UNH because of that software and the talents of our managerial group. Actively managing the production of food through the entire process allows us to offer anytime, unlimited dining at a cost that is one of the lowest in the country.
“As you probably know, our anytime, unlimited meal plans result in most food items being eaten. There is very little waste associated with our guests,” Plodzik said. “Typically, each patron generates a total of roughly 2.5 ounces per visit by our compost program calculations. We will spend over $8 million on food this year for the program, including retail venues.”
No matter how good the software is, there is some excess food that inevitably must be dealt with.
“We do donate food that is perishable that we will not be using prior to its expiration date to organizations like [the] Waysmeet [Center] and the Children’s Home in Dover,” Plodzik said. “This situation typically only happens during the winter break shutdown.”
There are also other options that allow the university to store unused food and to keep it sanitary until the next serving.
“Products can be safely handled for repurposing and reserving if they are not used upon completion of a meal period, or if we are preparing ahead,” Plodzik said. “We have established procedures involving the handling of items in compliance with the state of New Hampshire Health Code.”
As for the quality of food in the dining halls, it is agreed on by many students to be very good.
“I really like the food here on campus. It’s really convenient to be able to grab a bite at anytime of the day,” James Hunter, a junior, said. “You can’t really go wrong with stir fry.”