Recently we visited a university campus to market our safety / security / hostel management application, CoCo. It was 2pm on a Thursday at the Campus cafeteria and we had just finished our lunch. When I got in line to return my plate to the used dish carousel which teemed with dishes filled with half-eaten lentils, chapatis, salads and other items. The amount of food left behind astounded us. We noticed one gentleman overseeing the activity and marking symbols on a piece of paper against every student enrollment number. It prompted us to wonder that could we, with the help of technology, save such wastage ?
Twenty two million pounds of food is wasted annually on college campuses, across the United States only, according to the National Resource Defense Council. One big reason is that most modern dining halls are designed using an all-you-can-eat model. “Dining halls and on-campus eateries have to feed massive amounts of people quickly,” reports Georgiana Prevost, Food Recovery and Food Pantry ambassador from the UC Berkeley Basic Needs Center. “This means bulk preparation as well as over-preparation of food in anticipation, rather than in reaction to, the number of students coming to eat on any given day.”
In the dining hall, I watch as students place their leftovers on the circulating trays without a second glance. There is little interest in where that soggy bowl of cereal is going or the fate of the overcooked broccoli. Detached from thinking about the complete journey of our food naturally keep the disposal of organic waste out of sight, out of mind.
This maladaptive mindset is something many institutions are looking to reverse. Research conducted by the USDA has found that when people are unaware of the immediate consequences of the food they waste, they are less likely to manage it responsibly. “People don’t feel as motivated to reduce waste if they think the waste won’t cause any problems,” says USDA Food Services specialists, Brian Roe, the faculty lead at Ohio State University’s Food Waste Collaborative.
But inroads are being made into lowering the amount of food left behind, led in part by the increasing awareness of what it does to the environment. When those half-eaten sandwiches and salads crowding the dish carousel in the dining hall are left to rot in landfills, polluting gasses such as methane are emitted into the atmosphere. But when organic waste is recycled and composted, food particles are broken down into forms that can be repurposed into soil, fertilizers, and other products instead.
While it’s true that tremendous amounts of food are being wasted on campus, organic waste management initiatives are in motion at many academic institutions. UC Davis and other universities have partnered with the EPA, for instance, in an effort to commit to food waste management goals through the Food Recovery Challenge, a program designed to motivate and award organizations for diverting food waste.
What follows are a few other steps colleges and universities are taking to manage food waste responsibly.
How can technology help?
Technology can play a key role in reducing food wastage and in helping college campuses introduce “digital cafeterias.” Simply put, digital cafeterias are app-based, tech-enabled cafeterias that allow colleges to easily analyze food consumption trends while effectively reducing wastage. Digital cafeterias with AI-enabled features can help kitchen staff understand what’s going to waste, what kind of food students prefer, what time of the day has the most walk-ins and other such data.
Consequent to the above exercise, we have developed a comprehensive digital
solution which we have christened the COCO Mess Hall App. It is already working
satisfactorily at two locations, handling several thousand users. Enquiries solicited.
The “Assistance Control” project was inspired by the basic idea of the “Bologna Process”, a Pan-European collaboration which started in 1999, to adapt technology to provide a better quality of education that would allow improvement of the next generation of classroom teaching.
The best project finally chosen and tested involved students registered for classes with NFC phones, during the academic year 2011–2012 at “Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, Campus Madrid” (UPSAM).
This resulted in the senior students at the School of Computer Engineering to certify 99.5% accuracy and ease of attendance that ensured continuous assessment without loss of instructional time allocated to this activity.
Source : Science Direct Volume 40 Issue 11, 1st September 2013, Pages 4478-4489