CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Materials Management program has awarded Oregon State University with a $27,372 grant to help the university reduce food waste by 10 percent at its Corvallis campus.
The money will be used to institute a new computer program in the dining halls called LeanPath. The system uses cutting-edge technology to track food waste by amount, type, cause and cost. The information can be used by staff to pinpoint where to make adjustments and prevent future waste.
Portland-based LeanPath created technology for commercial kitchens including scales, cameras and a touchscreen user interface. LeanPath is used in universities, on cruise ships, and at other large scale operations. Data reveals where the company should adjust purchasing, production, menus and staff training to prevent waste in the future.
Chris Anderson with University Housing & Dining Services (UHDS) said it’s difficult to currently measure the university’s level of food waste from dining halls, but he estimates it to be between 200,000 and 250,000 pounds annually. The new technology is expected to allow UHDS to decrease expenditures on food purchases, reduce pick-ups of organic waste by Republic Service, and reduce food donations to Linn-Benton Food Rescue.
Anderson said LeanPath will provide staff with a mechanism to weigh, photograph and report on all wasted food.
“LeanPath provides a tool to be able to pull reports and visuals that demonstrates wasted food very locally, like by each food-service platform per dining center, in units that can be equalized so that administrators and managers are able to evaluate and generate efficiencies through menu adjustments and operational changes,” Anderson said. “In the end it’s about bringing attention to wasted food and our opportunity to lessen our impact.” The equipment should be implemented by July 2018.
UHDS has worked towards reducing wasted food for decades. Among the changes to the traditional dining hall model were moving to an ala carte pricing structure that encourages customers to take what they intend to consume, providing tray-less service when applicable, partnering with the Linn-Benton Food Rescue and encouraging staff to cook items on demand. Anderson believes LeanPath will be a further step in that effort.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Dining Services to reflect on our practices, both positive and correctable, to have an impact that aligns well with our institutional values,” he said. “I’m looking forward to 18 months from now to see what happens.”