Due to expiration dates, health codes and over purchasing, some food from campus dining facilities must be disposed or donated to local food donation centers.
At the end of each weekday, employees at the campus dining facilities must sort the food that was not sold that day, saving what can be reused the next day, donating what can be transported to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County and disposing of the rest.
Margie Braden, the assistant manager of the Vista Grande Complex, said campus dining facilities don’t dispose of much food. Barden works for Sage Restaurant as well.
She attributes this to the amount of sales roughly doubling this year because the number of student meals for meal plans went from a minimum of five to eight a week, which has caused the amount of food remains to be scarce.
“We do get daily deliveries of fresh produce and baked goods, but we really haven’t had much left over. We all share the produce which helps us to not throw so much away,” Braden said. “For example, if VG’s needs extra asparagus, then Sage can give them some and they can use it on the line that night.”
Cal Poly dining services plans how much food to order according to how many customers they anticipate daily, Braden said.
“The most ideal situation is to be able to use up all the food,” Braden said. “Personally, I feel that if you are ordering too much and wasting food, that’s not a good business move.”
William LaForge, a BackStage Pizza employee, said that they also only make as much pizza as they feel will be sold that day by monitoring the business flow. This helps in reducing the left overs at the end of the day.
“If it gets slower, we don’t make as much pizza. It works out so that on most days we only have to throw away two pizzas at the end of the day,” LaForge said.
While using up all the food ordered might be good in theory, some employees working at campus dining facilities are finding that on some days that is not the case.
“It makes me so angry. We waste so much food. It really depends on the day though. Like at the beginning of the week, we can usually save more for the next day, but towards the end of the week we throw a lot out,” said an anonymous employee at The Avenue, an on-campus dining facility.
Another anonymous employee from The Avenue elaborated on the process of sorting the food at the end of the day.
“We save what we can. We do not want to waste it, but some things must be thrown out because we have to follow the health codes.”
The California State Health and Safety Code states that food, which is cooked twice, meaning it was cooked once, served, and then re-cooked for serving, cannot be served. Since food cannot be reheated for serving, the most common things that are disposed of are cooked food items such as soup, meats and foods that are past their expiration date, said the anonymous employee.
The amount of food that is disposed of varies from day to day and greatly depends on the size of the dining facility, the amount of business and if the food is prepared in advance or upon orders.
The Avenue, for example, is among the largest dining facilities on campus, serves the widest variety of food options, and has food prepared in advance, such as large pots of soup or salad bar items. The amount of food that must be disposed of from The Avenue has the potential to be greater than the amount disposed from BackStage Pizza simply because the amount of people they serve is greater and consequently the amount of food provided and prepared is greater.
The Avenue disposes of between five to 20 pounds of food daily, depending on the day, according to estimates from an anonymous employee.
BackStage Pizza, on the other hand disposes of about two pizzas a day. BackStage Pizza has less food options, which makes it easier to make food upon receiving orders. It also has and a smaller seating area, creating a smaller customer base at any given time.
As for actual disposal methods, Cal Poly dining facilities gives produce scraps to the Cal Poly Organic Farm for composting, generally when they have a lot of extra food. Otherwise, small amounts of food are disposed of in dumpsters.
While some food must be thrown away due to state health laws, some of the food not sold at the end of a day can be donated to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.
Brent Mooney, the manager of the food services warehouse, calls the food bank when they have donations, which is one to two times a week.
“I like to see the stuff stay out of landfill,” Mooney said. “As long as it’s going to a good use, that’s all that matters.”
Carl Hansen, the executive director of the Paso Robles Food Bank warehouse, said that generally the kinds of food that campus dining uses on a daily basis cannot be donated because of packaging restrictions.
“We generally can’t accept foods that have been prepared for serving,” Hansen said. “We’re not equipped for breaking it down into individual servings. For example, if they had a vat of lasagna leftover, that would not be the best for donating because someone would have to repackage it to be distributed.”
While food items, which are cooked and served, are not optimal for donation, foods such as breads, packaged and canned foods are easier to deal with.
Jim Lewis, the manager of the Oceano Food Bank warehouse, who handles most of the donations from Cal Poly said that the donations can be as frequent as several times a week to as infrequent as once a month. Typical high donation times are at the end of quarters or before holiday breaks.
Any food donated to the food bank goes toward halfway houses, homeless shelters, women’s shelters, some of which include the Prado Day Center, the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter and the Women’s Shelter.
As of today, Cal Poly has donated 15,941 pounds of food to the food bank and Lewis hopes that Cal Poly dining facilities will continue donate what food they can.
“I don’t turn down food. I can find a home for almost anything,” Lewis said. “I hate to see food go to waste more than anyone, so I hope that they come to us before they throw it out.”