December 4, 2012

The Ville Grill takes on food conservation to cut down on waste

The Ville Grille's efforts measured how much trash, like shown above, was wasted.

The Ville Grille’s efforts measured how much trash, like shown above, was wasted.

By Noah Allison–

Every day, roughly 3,000 hungry Louisville Cardinals filter through the Ville Grille, the food establishment that never lacks in options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. While the food may be suspect, there is no doubt that the convenience, good times and the illusion of ending the semester with no swipes remaining, keep the crowds coming back. But if one happened to look above the conveyor belt of dirty dishes between October and November, they would notice an alarming chart showing how many thousands of pounds of food were wasted in that short time at the Ville Grille. The chart is no longer there, but the issue of wasted food has not left the Ville.

“We did it for a month – from Oct. 11 to Nov.11 –we measured how much we were actually sending to compost,” said Ville Grill Executive Chef Mellisa Ingram. “We found that on average each day was about 1,600 pounds, and that’s just off of what the students were leaving on their plates and not eating. We were trying to make them aware of how much food they were actually wasting and not eating, just to give them a heads up. Take what you want, but you can always go back and get more; try not to waste things like that.”

The Ville Grille receives a report every week from the compost company letting them know how much waste they send. During the school year, students threw out an average of nearly 6,000 pounds of food; that makes up about 20 percent of food the Ville Grille prepares each week. According to Ingram, that adds up to about &10,000 in wasted food each month.

“Students wonder why the meal plan is so expensive, or why they are given so many meals to use and it all factors into that. We’ve got a certain amount that we have to spend each day on the students, so when a breakfast meal costs $2.50 and they are only eating $1.50 of that and the rest is going in the trash, then you see where the money is going to,” Ingram said.

The buffet style of service offered at the Ville Grille is great for the students who utilize it properly, but it leads to many students putting far too much on their plate. It is a trend that has been noticeable since the Ville Grille first opened three years ago.

“We started off with trying to show the students the value of what they’ve got, and why we have smaller portions, why we don’t have trays. We are not only trying to save food, but keep them healthy, because a normal sized portion is only about the size of your fist. So in trying to teach them that, we are also trying to teach them conservation; not everything can be disposable and eventually we are all going to have to pay for that,” Ingram said.

Ten thousand dollars of waste per month can add up pretty fast, as can 6,000 pounds of food per week. Those numbers summed over one or two semesters proves to be more than alarming.

“Luckily, the University is able to use that compost into other things. It’s being composted into mulch for the flower beds and fertilizer and that kind of stuff. At least it’s being reused, but it would be nice not to waste it to begin with,” Ingram said.

The situation is one that seemingly could be easily fixed, by keeping students from getting more than they can eat, but the reality of that is improbable in these times. Not all students throw a plate full of food away. Given the number of students that attend the Ville Grille every day, the one and the few adds up quick.

“Most of the time I know that I am going to be able to finish all of my food, but there is like once or twice a month that I do get an extra plate and I do waste it, because I just can’t finish it,” freshman Luis Rivera said. “Most people do throw their food away. I sit down to eat with people who have a whole plate full of food and they’ll take three bites out of it and be finished and throw the rest of it away.”

The wasted food at the Ville Grille will continue to be wasted if the Grille goer does not make a conscious decision to make a change: for the sake of saving money and for the necessity of conservation.

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Photos by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal

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