Servo goes “trayless”: Students provide feedback on dining hall changes
By Vera Ekhator, Staff Writer
This year at Gettysburg, Servo took a step toward environmental sustainability by going “trayless.” Instead of carrying their food on a tray, students must now carry their plates by hand. When they finish eating students then place their plates onto a rotating rack called an accumulator for washing. This new system, geared toward preserving water and cutting down food waste, has been met with mixed reviews. However, Servo going trayless is by no means an “out of the blue” innovation; it is a change that has been requested by some students for several years. Additionally, the trayless system at Servo is just one of the many steps the dining hall staff has taken toward environmental sustainability throughout the years.
While most students who were interviewed agreed that the change has its strengths, many also seemed to agree that the system will take some getting used to. Student Haley Skinner summarized the general consensus well with her statement, “Good intentions, impractical results.” Another student, Anna Hauser, stated, “It’s going to take time to adjust my eating habits . . . [the trayless system] is limiting my consumption in a way I don’t appreciate. I only have two hands.” While some students may see this change as impractical, Gary Brautigam, Director of Dining Services, offers a differing perspective. Brautigam, “The installation of an accumulator . . . easily allows tableware to be sent back to the dish room without use of a tray.” Additionally, Brautigam notes that the accumulator is “more convenient and efficient to use and easier on [Servo’s] staff” than the tray system of previous years.
From the quotes garnered from students, the overarching sentiment was that their food consumption would be impacted from Servo’s new innovation. This is because Servo’s new trayless system makes it impractical to carry too many plates at once. Laura Fodale, a sophomore student, compared the act of balancing her plates at Servo to a “cirque du soleil” trick. While students taking less food may seem negative, it can actually be positive as well. One first-year student, Noelle Zimmerman, offered an interesting positive aspect of the trayless system: “I personally like it because I always get too much food so the trayless system makes me get one thing at a time.” If Noelle’s experience holds true for all students, then Servo may have inadvertently solved the problem of the “freshman fifteen.”
Servo’s trayless system has other inadvertent benefits. For one, it limits impulsive decisions. As opposed to getting several plates of food at once, students can sit down, eat their first plate and then decide if they truly want a second before going up. This decreases the amount of wasted food since students who have thought out their servings are more likely to fully consume them, which leads to the second benefit: less plates means less water used and less detergent. So in addition to water saved from the implementation of the accumulator, additional water is saved by the students’ decrease in plate usage.
The new trayless system at Servo is not the first environmentally conscious innovation that Servo has implemented. Throughout the years, Servo has taken other steps towards environmental sustainability: the installation of a “waste pulper” in 2007 reduced Servo’s volume of waste by 80% and a dehydrator, which diverts approximately 1500 pounds of pulp each week and makes a sterile biomass ground amendment that is used for farming. It seems as if Servo’s possibilities for innovation towards sustainability are endless. Only time will tell what comes next.