Bon Appetit’s lunchtime project “Weigh the Waste” showed Hillsdale College students and guests just how much food they waste: 418 pounds over the course of five lunch periods, to be exact. That corresponds to 334 meals.
Bon Appetit Marketing Coordinator William Persson said Bon Appetit runs this project across all of its accounts around the country in both the corporate and higher education settings. Persson added that the driving force behind the project was a recent study Bon Appetit completed by partnering with the National Resource Defense Council. The project was titled, “Toward Cleaner Plates: a Study of Plate Waste and Food Service.”
“This was a study that was scientifically-formed, so it’s a little more exact than what we’re doing here,” Persson said. “They’re getting data over a long period of time in both the educational and corporate settings to figure out what’s causing people to waste food from their plates, how much it is for each guest, and what are the best ways to reduce it.”
The study looked at 20 accounts, both corporate and higher education, over a variety of meal periods and found that college students waste 112 pounds of edible plant waste per student per school year. This number adds up to around 2.18 ounces of waste per meal per student.
Senior Jessica Frenkel started the “Roots Project” this summer and was hired as the Special Projects Coordinator for Bon Appetit. Frenkel, who said she supports projects focused on sustainability, took her Roots Project and collaborated with Bon Appetit for Weigh the Waste. “The number that we’ve racked up is quite shocking, especially for a small campus,” Frenkel said. “It’s discouraging to see that is what we’re wasting, there’s no doubt that that’s disappointing. But also, to be able to see that number and understand the scope of the issue is helpful to reinforce that awareness.”
Junior Danielle Lee helped Bon Appetit with Weigh the Waste and said most students she talked to appreciated the project because it increased their awareness about food waste.
“When you’re behind the table and looking down at this bin full of food, you see whole hot dogs, a hamburger that has one bite, or full patties, and you’re just like: ‘Wow, that could feed somebody else who actually needs food,’” Lee said.
To combat this waste, Persson said Bon Appetit is looking to implement tasting spoons at some point in the future. Tasting spoons can reduce plate waste by up to half, according to a Bon Appetit study.
“We have it ready,” Persson said. “The company didn’t develop collateral yet, but I went ahead and requested it in advance, so we got our own stuff designed because we wanted to do it earlier.”
Frenkel said tasting spoons will help students develop a more informed decision about what they’d like to eat.
“Feedback is welcomed in a really great way with Bon Appetit, but as a busy student, you need to eat whatever they’re serving,” Frenkel said. “And to be able to choose in a more educated way, having tasted different things and decided what you want, I think there’s a lot of benefit to that.”
Since starting the Roots Project, Frenkel said she has been most impressed by Bon Appetit’s commitment to sustainability.
“They’re really active in pushing toward sustainable practices, ethical farming, and locally-sourced ingredients,” Frenkel said. “All of those things that you hear about as buzzwords, for Bon Appetit, they’re more than buzzwords. At least from what I’ve seen, it genuinely is what their goal is.”