Dining Hall Ditches the Trays
CHESTERTOWN, MD—In a move expected to help the environment and the bottom line, the Washington College Dining Hall will no longer offer trays in the main dining room in Hodson Hall Commons. In an email sent to the campus community, Dining Services announced it would follow the lead of dozens of other college campuses and go trayless as a way to reduce both the amount of food wasted and the amount of resources used to clean trays and extra plates between uses.
Colleges and universities have been abandoning dining hall trays fairly steadily since at least 2006. Studies have shown that without a tray on which to pile items from the cafeteria lines, students waste 30 to 40 percent less food. When American University went trayless, it also experienced a 27 percent reduction in the number of dishes used.
Zena Maggitti, Director of Washington College Dining Services, estimates that going trayless will save some 2,000 gallons of water per semester, based on the 1,000 or so trays that had to be washed every day. While the cost savings and “green” motivations of the new policy seem obvious, an information page linked to the WC Dining Services webpage points out two additional benefits: Ditching the trays can lend a dining hall a less institutional feel, and it just may help students make healthier choices and avoid unwanted weight gain, even that infamous “freshman 15.”
Maggitti says the Student Environmental Alliance and individual students have been advocating for the change since she arrived at the college 18 months ago. “I expect any resistance will come from faculty and staff,” she says. “But I think once everyone gets used to it and sees the savings in wasted food and energy, they will come on board.” She notes that a limited number of trays will still be available by request for those with special needs. The rest will be donated to the public school systems in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties for use in art classes.