Correction: This article was updated at 4:18 p.m. on Friday, September 14 to correct the spelling of Cody Gion’s name.
The food service company that helps run the Gastronome, Aramark, recently launched a brand new system to measure day-to-day waste numbers, specifically focused on cutting waste before customers even pick up the plate.
“It’s really hard to share a number yet; I think within the next couple of months we’ll have year-over-year data that will show us where we were last year compared to where we are now,” said Rhonda Robinson, the food service director of the Gastronome.
Eliminating the possibility of food going to waste is heavily focused on at the Gastronome.
The primary campus dining area serves between 25,000 and 27,000 meals per week to just under 2,000 residential students and several hundred commuters.
The Gastronome is using a new practice that is focused on cooking only enough food to meet the demand, rather than having large numbers of prepared food that may end up going untouched.
“We use a restaurant approach, we cook in batches,” said Ubirajara Martins, executive chef at the Gastronome. “So if I know I’m going to make 50 pounds of broccoli, I’m not going to cook all 50 pounds at 1 o’clock. I’ll do increments of 2 or 3 pounds, and at the end of the night I’m only cooking what the students are asking for.”
To achieve long-term reduction of food waste, Martins said it is a two-way street that requires efforts from the students as well.
“When the students come in, they see the abundance of food, they try to eat everything and they don’t eat the amount of food they put on the plate. We cannot control that. So that’s why we want to make sure it becomes a partnership, where they know they can go to any station as many times as they want, and just put on the plate what they really need,” Martins said.
Cody Gion, a fourth-year journalism major, usually eats at the Gastronome at least once a day and said students can contribute to reducing food waste by taking only the food they know they’ll eat.
“There’s a lot of food on the conveyor belt, it’s kinda disgusting, there’ll be like a huge burger, huge sandwich, maybe a bunch of fries they didn’t like. I think it’s not (the Gastronome) that has to improve, I think it’s the students that come. Don’t be too adventurous, because that can lead to food waste,” Gion said.
The goal of lessening food waste in the exclusive CSUF dining hall is balanced with the Gastronome’s duties of providing food that is varied, healthy and high quality.
The Gastronome changes its menu for lunch and dinner every day for seven days a week and is also engaged in a partnership with the American Heart Association. The organization helps provide healthy options for students and encourages them to have a more well-rounded diet.
“I’m counting on your generation to change this,” Robinson said. “Whatever we can do to help offer solutions to help start a conversation.”