By Katie Pastor
Good news always comes with a hint of bad news. We'll start with the bad.
This week, our team encountered what you might call a technical difficulty—that is, an entire change in the location of our research. Bruin Plate seems to be the popular gem of the mine these days, and many projects have begun taking hold at that dining hall.
Since our project is particularly hands-on and investigative, and could easily interfere with the heavy traffic Bruin Plate has recently been experiencing, it was decided that our project would be best taken on somewhere else with a greater capacity for work during the 2013-2014 school year. While we were all very excited to work with Bruin Plate, we’re taking it all in stride and moving forward with our original action plan at Feast, the Asian-themed dining hall at Rieber, which tends to operate in a somewhat similar health-minded vein as Bruin Plate currently does.
In discussing the change, our team came to realize a few parallels between Feast and Bruin Plate. First, the portions at both dining halls are small. As a team, we wondered why this was, and if it might contribute to a reduced amount of waste within the dining hall as a whole (a hypothesis we are excited to test)! While this may be an initiative on the part of the dining staff, we figured we could gather valuable information on student opinion through education outreach and surveys later in the year.
Additionally, lighter dinnerware is used both in Bruin Plate and Feast, and use of trays seems to be much less prevalent than in other dining halls. Finally, both locations focus on food specialties, whether those are cultural roots or the processes behind the food. This leads to one of our team’s most anticipated questions: How does the type of food served affect food waste (in terms of volume, type, etc.)?
One major benefit that has emerged from our relocation is the potential opportunity we have to explore and implement other aspects of food sustainability. Last year’s lovely Sustainable Food Systems team focused their research on ensuring locality of produce and meat in Bruin Plate, an initiative in which our team is extremely interested. Since Feast serves Asian cuisine, we want to make sure all dishes are both authentic and sustainable. Theoretically, this is entirely feasible; after all, we live in LA, where Asian restaurants and markets are no strangers. We are hopeful this will come to fruition either through our own work, or the work of future teams.
While these initiatives would be ideal to implement within the next two quarters, we already have a lot on our plates with upcoming food waste endeavors. On this front, we have finally worked out the logistics for our food waste capture periods! In order to collect a larger variation and more data in general, our SFS team will split into two groups of three and each conduct two waste audits—one in Covel and one in Feast. One team (Joseph, Maddy, and myself) will be tasked with lunch shifts, and the other (Alice, Gabby, and Hannah) will cover the three-hour dinner periods. This way, we will be left with data that provides a clear comparison between the two dining halls during both major eating times.
No matter the location, we are ready to finally take on some real hands-on research!