South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Are the attitudes and practices of foodservice managers, catering personnel and students contributing to excessive food wastage at Stellenbosch University?

M.L. Marais, Y Smit, N Koen, E Lötze


Objective: The aim was to investigate factors contributing to food wastage by Stellenbosch University (SU) students in selected residences, and to determine the attitudes and practices of students and catering personnel impacting on food waste and a sustainable environment.

Design: Cross-sectional, descriptive study.

Setting: Stellenbosch University, Western Cape.

Subjects: Six foodservice managers, 63 catering personnel and 517 students participated in the study.

Outcome measures: A weighed-food wastage study was conducted at seven selected residences during lunch and supper on three non-consecutive weekdays. Food service managers (FSMs) and catering personnel completed interviewer-administered questionnaires, while SU students completed an electronic survey.

Results: Ninety percent of students preferred the standard menu options, despite a relatively high average plate waste of 16.9%. More production waste was generated during lunch than supper. The male residence generated more plate waste. Even though students requested larger servings of vegetables, the wastage of these items was high. Factors contributing to wastage were the booking system, menus and serving style, meal plan stipulating the serving of dessert and serving of a large starch portion. All FSMs and 88.5% catering personnel considered it important to reduce food wastage to a minimum.

Conclusion: Education of catering personnel and students regarding food waste reduction measures is crucial. A representative forum including students, catering companies and faculty management should be involved when seeking solutions to reduce food wastage and improve communication. By implementing these strategies, a university-wide culture of sustainability with a focus on food waste reduction can be developed and nurtured.

Keywords: food, plate waste, students, sustainable
AJOL African Journals Online