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Beyond the conveyor belt

Sodexo uses 24,000 pounds of chicken, 4,200 pounds of Romaine lettuce, 4,500 gallons of milk, 31,200 bananas and 1.2 million napkins per semester to feed the people of ORU.
Sodexo uses 24,000 pounds of chicken, 4,200 pounds of Romaine lettuce, 4,500 gallons of milk, 31,200 bananas and 1.2 million napkins per semester to feed the people of ORU.

Saga, also known as the ORU cafeteria serving food from Sodexo, serves meals to thousands of students, staff and faculty each week. People come and go, eat and converse and fill their empty stomachs with the buffet-style food options. Yet, many people drop their concerns off on to the dish conveyor belt with their plates of half-eaten food.

Exactly how much food at ORU is consumed?

Saga serves an average of 3,000 meals a day, a statistic given by Randy Page, the Director of Operations of Sodexo. Sodexo uses 24,000 pounds of chicken, 4,200 pounds of Romaine lettuce, 4,550 gallons of milk, 31,200 bananas and 1.2 million napkins per semester to feed the people of ORU.

However, out of all the prepared meals, Page says that only “75-80 percent of the food that gets prepared actually gets eaten. At the grill, pizza, deli and salad bar stations nearly 100 percent gets eaten and there is very minimal preparation waste and has almost no spoilage at all.”

Sodexo tries their best to gauge students tastes and prepare accurately, but there are leftovers that cannot be repurposed and get thrown away. This includes the meals at the “mindful” and international stations as well as the soups served.

What happens to the leftover food?

“Where there are large events, seasonal closings or some otherwise rare occasion where we have substantial high-quality leftovers, we typically donate them to the Tulsa Dream Center,” said Page.

In the past, Sodexo has also donated leftover meals to students who stay on the ORU campus during breaks.

The biggest cause of food waste is “the food that students take and do not consume,” said Page. “We try to portion food in a way that makes it more likely that students will be able to finish all that they take. Frankly, it is startling to see the amounts of food that come back to the dish room.”

According to Page, Sodexo is in discussion with a group of students on campus, at least one professor and a representative from the EPA about their Food Recovery Program, which is a government program designed to bring awareness to food waste and help society look at multiple solutions cutting food waste.

“We believe that food waste reduction really does begin with our students, and we can only make a difference if we all partner together for the greater good,” said Page.

So what can students do to cut back on food waste?

First, take only what you want to eat. Second, text your Resident Advisor on what foods you enjoyed eating. R.A.’s are required to fill out forms regarding food, which helps give feedback to Sodexo on what food students enjoyed eating, thus student can see the meals they like more often. Third, ask only for what you want to eat. Many times, Saga offers side dishes on the plate, but if you know that you will not like it, ask the server to only give you what you want, so that you won’t waste food.