Tray service generates more food waste in dining areas of a continuing-care retirement community

J Am Diet Assoc. 1997 Aug;97(8):879-82; quiz 883-4. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(97)00213-7.


Objective: To determine if the type of service system affects the amount of service food waste (SFW) generated in dining areas of a continuing-care retirement community.

Research design: A waste stream analysis was conducted for 7 days to determine quantity of SFW generated in three service systems: health care tray service, health care dining room with wait-staff service, and ambulatory dining room with family-style service. Weight and volume were determined.

Setting: Health care tray service and wait-staff service were provided to 70 residents in a health care unit. Family-style service was provided as an optional service for 130 residents in independent-living units. An average of 229 meals were served per day.

Statistical analysis performed: Analysis of variance and a multiple comparison method were used to compare mean weight and volume of SFW on a per meal, per day, and per week basis.

Results: During the 7-day period, 482.8 lb, or 83 gal, of SFW was disposed of Health care tray service generated more SFW by weight for all three meals than either family-style service or wait-staff service, and it generated the greatest total volume of service waste. Residents eating in the dining room with family-style service disposed of significantly less SFW by weight at lunch and dinner than those receiving the other two service styles.

Applications: Changing the style of service can affect not only quantity of solid waste generated and associated disposal costs but also food and supply costs, meal acceptability, and quantity of natural resources required. The systems approach should be used to assess the feasibility of changing service system so that all costs are considered.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Data Collection
  • Dietetics
  • Education, Continuing
  • Food Services / organization & administration*
  • Food Services / standards
  • Food*
  • Housing for the Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Retirement*
  • Workforce