Trayless dining promotes conservation and offers expanded menu options
Posted: 10/06/2008
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In an effort to protect the earth's natural resources and follow the president's mission to become a greener campus, dining at The University of Texas-Pan American has gone trayless.

Trayless dining started this past April in celebration of Earth Day, but due to its overwhelming success and environmentally friendly nature, it's here to stay.

Servando Montenegro, a junior majoring in computer engineering, looks at the meal choices for the day at the newly renovated UTPA cafeteria.
"We started looking at all the factors and how Sodexo could be in partnership with the environment to try to do their share of saving water, minimizing food waste and not over portioning food," said Edward Yduarte, general manager for Sodexo Campus Services - the food service company that provides campus dining.

Yduarte said research shows that when trays are removed from the dining locations less food is wasted, thousands of gallons of water are conserved and hundreds of dollars in detergent and electricity costs are saved.

"On average, food waste is decreased about one ounce per plate, which would otherwise end up in the landfills," he said.

Other schools within the UT System like The University of Texas at Austin are also considering making the switch. Sodexo Campus Dining has implemented trayless dining with much success on several campuses across the country, including Georgia Tech, Prairie View A&M, Valdosta State, South Carolina State University, among others.

Bobby Cruz, member of the Sodexo culinary team, prepares sweet and sour chicken at the exhibition station.

Yduarte said the University community has adapted to the changes well.

"Overall it's been great," he said. "In the beginning it took some slight adjustments in their dining patterns, but as we talked to them about why we were doing this and they started to see that overall the benefits would be outstanding."

Additionally, the new trayless set up has given management an opportunity to expand the menu and campus dining experience in the newly renovated dining hall, located on the west side of campus across from the University Center.

"Diners can go to different stations where the chefs prepare fresh food items right in front of them, as opposed to picking up a tray and going through a serving line," Yduarte said. "This gives the experience of more of a fine dining restaurant, as opposed to a 'cafeteria.'"

The stations consist of an exhibition station with an entrée that changes daily, freshly baked pizza, pasta station, hamburgers, creative sandwiches, vegetarian station, salad, homemade soups, ice cream and freshly baked desserts for lunch and dinner. For breakfast, the dining hall features eggs, an omelet station, Belgium waffles with great toppings, breakfast sandwiches, cereals, fruit, granola, and sweet breads.

Pictured from left to right are culinary team members Raquel Salce, Sodexo cook; Mauricio Lopez, Sodexo cook; Henry De Luna, Sodexo chef; and Bobby Cruz, Sodexo cook.

"We are trying to be considerate of everyone with the meal plan because we do have students from around the world who have a wide range of dietary needs," Yduarte said, noting that vegan and organic selections are also available at times.

Breakfast priced at $5.73, is served from 7-10:30 a.m., lunch at $6.68 is from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and dinner for $7.27 is from 5-7:30 p.m. The all you care to eat set up makes this UTPA dining hall a great value, Yduarte said. Meals can also be taken to go, so just ask for a to-go container if you cannot dine in. The UTPA dining hall also welcomes the general public.

For more information about campus dining at UTPA, contact Yduarte at 956/292-7485.