canteen management system

The Scourge of Food Wastage on College Campuses

A great financial, social and environmental loss to our planet to the Canteen Management System

canteen management system
university campus canteen

How the idea came to our mind?

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 ?

We came back and started some research. Our findings are as below.

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.”

food wasted college campus

Research findings continued.

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.

Wastage saving initiatives already in motion.

  • Increase awareness. Georgia Tech is an example of one school that has implemented a sustainable food initiative by making clear the size of the food waste problem. The university made the point by establishing relationships between dining services and campus sustainability specialists, and promoting student-led advocacy efforts and education through the creation of initiatives such as AWARE, a program designed to increase awareness around waste separation. The result: It successfully diverts 200 tons of organic waste from the landfill every month.
  • Make it easier to compost. Middlebury College successfully composts 300 pounds of food waste annually. So while it may seem that the piled dish carousels in my dining hall are a recipe for landfill disaster, the organic waste is being managed responsibly. Campus composting is “a year-long process, which involves food waste being mixed in with grass, wood chips, and horse manure from the Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge,” a spokesperson told me. After months of decomposition and a subsequent sift through, the finished product is used on the college flower beds and athletic fields.
  • Repurpose uneaten food. UC Berkeley and other institutions make use of campus food pantries that provide leftover food to students facing food insecurity. As a leader of the UC Berkeley Food Pantry team, Prevost has witnessed the program average around 19,500 visits per semester. Donating leftover food to local food banks or making it available to members of the college community without cost ensures it isn’t wasted.
  • Personalize the dining experience. Less food is wasted when students can take what they want at the dining hall, and only what they want. University of Michigan and other institutions have reported decreases in food waste once serving trays are removed from dining halls.
  • As institutions catch on to the responsible waste management trend, food entering the landfill may soon be taboo. In the process of researching food waste management on campuses, I am more aware of the scraps I leave behind and the portions I serve, revelations I am sharing with others. Taking steps to improve organic waste management is simple, realistic, and ultimately unnegotiable. It is your meal, your community, and your efforts that matter. Because most importantly, it is our planet.

Further thoughts.

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.

Digitization focus points.

  • Apps have an RSVP feature with which students can confirm a few hours before mealtime if they’ll be eating at the campus kitchen. This feature allows kitchen staff to manage their food portions optimally.
  • Keeping Track Of Student Traffic: One of the key challenges that kitchen staff have is accurately tracking the number of students who turn up for meals. There are days when the traffic is high and the pattern keeps fluctuating. Most of the time, kitchen staff prepare food in bulk and they rarely have an accurate measure of how many students are going to order a specific meal.
  • Employing Predictive Analysis: Technologies like AI can play a role in gathering insights into students’ food preferences and eating habits. On the basis of the menu they choose, kitchen staff can gather insights on dietary patterns and plan their inventory accordingly. Based on this information, the campus kitchen can eventually determine the kind of meals that most students choose, the daily expected enrollment for each meal and the number of plates that need to be made each day.
  • Turning Insights Into Actions: Currently, even though campus kitchen staff have some data on food wastage, they don’t have a way to convert this data into actionable insights. With the help of technology, raw data can be converted into useful information that can help them implement changes in their inventory, menu and portion sizes, leading to a reduction in food wastage and driving awareness among students, colleges, kitchen staff and other stakeholders.
  • University dining halls play a major role in the nationwide epidemic of food waste. However, universities can take simple measures by adopting data-driven tools and software to identify and minimize food waste while educating their students, who will play a crucial role in reversing the trend of food waste.

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.

NFC Story

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