Combating Food Waste at Rice University

Practices of Food Use:

  • Our Plant-Based Journey – our culinary program includes a comprehensive focus on plant-based protein – which means no animal products of any type are included. Our chefs utilize several types of plant-based proteins in incredible ways. Keep an eye out for these dishes in the serveries.
  • NO PLASTIC STRAWS in our serveries – reducing plastic waste.
  • ID Card Swiping—We emphasize the importance of swiping when entering the servery because the data collected (e.g. number of swipes at lunch roughly correlates to number of diners) is used to prepare a precise amount of food so that each kitchen produces as little waste as possible.
  • Root to Stem—the practice of using the whole plant for multiple dishes on the serving line; for example, fresh carrot stems can be cut up to make pesto, or go into a salad.
  • Local Food sourcing at the Rice Farmers Market—Chefs making dishes from foods bought at the farmers market – nearly 25 percent of local produce comes from the Rice Farmers Market. Students can also use their dining dollars at the market to make local purchases.
  • Food Reuse—many dishes or side items can be stored and recycled into new dishes. For example, grilled chicken goes without sauce until placed on the serving line. The remaining chicken is frozen and may be shredded, or chopped for use in soup, stew, or other dishes. Vegetables du jour undergo similar recycling.

Tray-less dining leads to diners removing less food from the servery reducing post-consumer food waste by up to thirty percent meaning a pre-consumer waste reduction of eleven percent versus tray style dining. This enables the serveries to serve the same number of people with less food. This means overall less waste on both ends of the production cycle.

Vegetarian and plant-based entrees are available at every meal and the entire dining operation is trans-fat free. Over 90 percent of the food served in the campus dining halls is made from scratch on-site. The university practices trayless dining, a program created by students as a pilot class project in 2008, to reduce food waste and utility consumption that was implemented campus-wide in the spring of 2009.

About 30 percent of Rice’s food budget is used for local purchases. Seafood purchases are made in accordance with guidelines established by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Fair-trade locally-roasted organic coffee was introduced to the Rice campus by the student-run Rice Coffeehouse in 2005, and Housing and Dining now only serves fair-trade coffee as well.

Sustainability Efforts