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Project Clean Plate Reduces Food

By Candace Morales
On March 1, 2012

Whether they're eating, studying, or just hanging out with friends, most Salem State University students spend a lot of their time in the school's cafeterias.

But many students don't know about the Project Clean Plate program, which was designed by Chartwells to get students involved in the school's goal to combat hunger, save energy and reduce the amount of food wasted on campus.

To prevent waste, the program encourages students to take as much food as they like but no more than what they will eat. According to the Salem State website, "Students who return their plate empty and have not wasted food receive a small reward such as a coupon for retail redemption or a prize raffle."

Steve Dufrene, a senior who had a teriyaki chicken salad for lunch, visits the cafeteria at North Campus twice a week and wants to know why no one told him about Project Clean Plate.

"I always eat all the food I get in the café, so why didn't I know I could be rewarded?" he asked.

According to the Chartwells' website, cafeteria workers are supposed to randomly monitor "plates at the tray disposal area during select meal periods." The results of their findings should be gathered and communicated back to students.

Food that gets disposed at SSU is weighed, and according to the website, "an estimate of wasted food is recorded and posted in graph form, showing week-byweek results inside the dining hall" for staff and students to see.

Chartwells' hope is that this procedure will help students see how much food is wasted so they can change their habits.

Another student who knew nothing about the program is sophomore Stephanie Espinal. She's double majoring in photography and dance, and said if she's not in class or in the dance room, she's in the cafeteria.

"As much time as I spend in the café, I never knew about [Project Clean Plate]," said Espinal. "I think it's pretty cool."

Staff members also do their job to ensure they are minimizing food waste too. George Lua – director of operations – who has worked with Chartwells for 18 years – said he sees that many students do not eat in the café on Thursdays.

Since there are fewer students eating in the cafe, the chefs cook less food on that day of the week.

Lua also said a few students complain about waiting in line for their food to be made, but after a certain time, food is made-to-order. Not cooking a burger until someone orders one prevents it from sitting out in the open.

If a burger is sitting out for a certain period of time, before anyone decides to take it, there's a good chance that it'll be thrown into the trash.

Since implementing these procedures, Lua said he has noticed a bigger decrease in the amount of food that is thrown out on a daily basis.

Lua said students should know that reducing the amount of wasted food has prevented an increase in the cost of a meal plan.


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