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Cooking Up a Climate-Friendly Kitchen

The dynamics of the dining hall change in the winter. With no sit down dinners, students order out more often. Sports teams, such as hockey and swimming, have late practices, which accounts for varying walk-through dinner schedules. Nevertheless, the dining hall manages to stay relatively “green” and efficient when it comes to excess food, costs, and recycling.

On average, Deerfield students order from restaurants such as China Gourmet, Goodies, and Dominoes between one to three times per week. And in the winter, when students are more likely to obtain food from alternative venues, the dining hall faces competition from these restaurants and the Greer.

As a result of this, the level of food consumed in the dining hall inevitably changes; however, it is difficult to compare the change in food consumption between fall and winter terms because of the change from sit down to walk through meals. During walk-through meals, students have more choices and may take more food than they will actually eat.

But the dining hall has an online system that uses the program CBORD to keep track of food consumption. This program is especially helpful to Director of Food Services Florrie Paige because it keeps a six-year record of the history of menu items. After an item is served, information is put in about the number of portions made, the amount consumed, the temperature outside, what was served for the previous meal, and how much the item cost. This prevents the waste of food by insuring that the dining hall staff makes different amounts of each food item based on these statistics.

“The system is remarkably helpful because every week when we are making up a new menu, we can look back over years and years of data and determine if students will eat it, and how much of it,” explained Ms. Paige.

“It is impossible to control the amount of food that students take and then choose not to eat,” said Ms. Paige, “but the dining hall compensates by composting the waste.” All food goes into the campus compost; the biodegradable material from the Greer, Café Louis, and dining hall are sent to be commercially composted at Martin’s Farm in Greenfield.

“This system is more sophisticated than systems at any other boarding school, and even most colleges,” explained Ms. Paige. “However, it is easier to have such a system at Deerfield than a place like Exeter, because we have only one main dining hall.”

The dining hall has made many changes in efforts to control our impact on the environment. Flatware has been moved to the end of the line during walk-through meals, in hopes that students will only take what they need. A few years ago, the dining hall did away with trays to avoid using extra water to wash them.

Students must now make their own salads at sit-down meals so as not to waste the communal salad, which often went uneaten. The dining hall is also careful to recycle all glass, metal, cardboard and plastic bottles.

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