October 8, 2002

Dining Waste Top Concern At University

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Although most students do not know what happens once the doors to the dining halls close for the day, Colleen Wright-Riva, the director of dining, makes it her business to know. The process is uniform for all of the dining facilities — after the trays go through the moving belt, the food is placed into a somat machine, which grinds up the food. It is then composted and taken down to the Cornell Plantations to be used as fertilizer. “Because we batch cook, there is very little waste every day … We try to compost what we can,” said Wright-Riva.


Richard Anderson, director of All-You-Care-To-Eat Facilities, also believes that the dining halls do an excellent job. “Overall a good job is done — better than other campuses that I’ve been at.”

For a better perspective, North Sta.r serves about 600 people at breakfast, 600 people at lunch and another 1,200 at dinner, for a total of approximately 2,400 servings per day. Of this, he explains, there are about 40 to 50 portions left over per product per week.

Both Wright-Riva and Anderson stress that the amount of food donated to shelters is minimal.

“We will contact local charities,” said Wright-Riva, “at the end of the semester and breaks.” Foods that will spoil, packaged sandwiches and bulk items that were ordered in excess are available to be picked up by organizations such as Loaves and Fishes. But donations are rare, as the waste from production, they say, is minimal.

Top Effort

When asked how Cornell can reduce waste, both Wright-Riva and Anderson felt strongly that on the production side, everything that can be done is currently being done.

Anderson explained that the waste is “more significant on the student end.” Wright-Riva said she would like to “create an awareness program to help them see how we might better reallocate our money.”

She suggested that if the student takes less because he knows he won’t eat it all, more money can occasionally be spent on higher quality meals, such as a “prime night.” Both Anderson and Wright-Riva stress that student awareness in regard to food conservation is a significant step in reducing waste at the Cornell dining halls.

Archived article by Stephanie Baritz