Continuing-care retirement communities and long-term-care facilities must not only provide quality care to residents in compliance with health care regulations, but must also control all operating costs (1,2). The cost of waste disposal is usually not monitored or evaluated in these facilities. Instead, these operations often emphasize the importance of controlling food and labor costs but fail to monitor or evaluate waste disposal cost (3-5).
Shanklin and Ferris (unpublished data, 1995) conducted a waste stream analysis in the foodservice department at a continuing-care retirement community in the Midwest. Packaging waste composed 28.2% of the total waste stream by weight and 85.9% by volume. Totals of 1,511.48 lb and 2,394.64 gal of waste by weight and volume, respectively, were generated during the study period. Mean weight and volume of total waste were 0.89 lb and 1.46 gal per meal, respectively. Production and service food wastes composed 81.8% (0.65 lb per meal) and 14.0% (0.18 gal per meal) of the total waste stream by weight and by volume, respectively.
After reviewing results of the waste stream analysis conducted by Shanklin and Ferris, the foodservice director implemented changes in the production system. More accurate forecasting and improved portion control were emphasized. A source-reduction program that included discontinued use of polystyrene beverage cups and fewer plastic inserts for the tray-delivery system was implemented. A subsequent waste stream analysis found that the source-reduction activities resulted in significantly less (P[less than or equal to].05) production food waste and total food waste. Weight and volume of plastic were significantly less (P[less than or equal to].05) after source reduction (6).
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After this study, the foodservice director worked collaboratively with an administrator and an interdisciplinary work team to implement several changes in the service system. Meals were provided to residents in three dining rooms, each with its own style of service (health care dining room - wait-staff service; dining room for residents requiring assistance with feeding - tray service; and dining room for residents living in the independent units - family-style service). Tray service was also available for residents in the skilled nursing unit who for health reasons could not eat in one of the other dining rooms. The health care dining room decor was changed to resemble a dining room in a private home. A separate dining room was provided for residents who require assistance with feeding. The dietary department changed from a tray-delivery system to wait-staff service (American-style table service) for health care residents eating their meals in the dining room. Serviceware was preset before breakfast. Serviceware, salad, and dessert were preset before lunch and dinner. Hot food was portioned in the dining room, then served …