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Smaller plates avoid food waste

SOU awarded grant for novel approach to reducing food waste

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been awarded a $7,512 grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to try a logical means of reducing food waste on campus: use smaller plates.

The grant pays to replace 10.5-inch plates with nine-inch plates at The Hawk student dining commons.

SOU’s grant application explains that “studies have shown a reduction in plate size can lead to a reduction in food waste as patrons eat the portions allotted on the smaller plate. Larger plates tend toward food waste as patrons take more food than the individual can consume in one sitting.”

Drew Gilliland, director of SOU’s Department of Facilities, Management and Planning, said that any money left over from the dish replacement will be used to “purchase additional smaller plates and purchase marketing materials to encourage healthy eating.”

SOU’s grant application was submitted last year by then-sustainability and recycling manager Roxane Beigel-Coryell, who has since left the university for a similar position in southern California. The plates were replaced in mid-September, before fall term classes began, so first-year students attending SOU won’t have noticed a change.

The grant requires that food waste measurements be recorded this year to determine the effectiveness of the reduced plate size. Gilliland said early indications are promising.

“It’s my observation that there is already less food waste and we want to continue to reduce that,” he said. “Publishing the results of the study will hopefully encourage our students to discuss food consumption.

“We plan on using the study as part of a marketing program to encourage mindfulness around our consumption and its impact on the greater environment.”

He pointed out that the discarded 10.5-inch plates weren’t thrown away.

“(The larger plates) will be used for special events and other events where food is provided,” Gilliland said. “We may also consider donating any excess to a non-profit.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer