The End of the Cafeteria Trays

SledTray1.jpg

Cafeteria trays make college kids fat. And wasteful. And so many colleges are apparently thinking it’s time to get rid of them.

According to a piece by Jenna Johnson in the Washington Post:

When Virginia Tech’s largest dining hall reopened several years ago, some administrators jokingly dubbed it the “freshman 25” cafeteria, for the number of pounds some students might gain from the tasty fare.

Students loaded their trays with Belgian waffles, brick-oven-baked pizza, falafel, Brazilian skewered meat, pad Thai, fruit juice concoctions and elaborate desserts – so much food that even the biggest of guys with the biggest of appetites could not always clean their plates.

And so, apparently, they didn’t. According to the article,

As food service workers watched thousands of pounds of food go to waste, the university decided to make a move increasingly common at higher-education institutions nationwide: It got rid of cafeteria trays. The change was immediate. “The plates were coming back basically cleaned,” said Ted J. Faulkner, Tech’s senior associate director of housing and dining services. “It was astounding.”

The trouble is that cafeteria trays allow students to load up on multiple plates. That pizza looks good. And so does that sundae. And how about that chicken pot pie? And I guess I should probably have a salad, too. When students can load up on all of those different options they often return a lot of it uneaten at the end of the night.

The trays also have other fun uses (see image) but, at least at Tech, colleges discover that they can save on food if they just don’t give students trays to transport extra. Reduce the platform, reduce the waste.

Then again, colleges might also be able to reduce waste if they stopped offering such tempting options. The reason room and board is so much has a lot to do with unnecessary dining luxury: “brick-oven-baked pizza” and “Brazilian skewered meat.”

And if students pay a semester fee, they want their money (or their loans) to be worth it, so load up. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer