Undergrads get connected for buffet spreads

The Telegram chat group at NTU was set up by first-year students who were inspired to start the group after noticing full trays of food being swept into a bin, while leaving a lecture. The group's popularity has surged, with undergrads praising it fo
The Telegram chat group at NTU was set up by first-year students who were inspired to start the group after noticing full trays of food being swept into a bin, while leaving a lecture. The group's popularity has surged, with undergrads praising it for reducing food wastage, widening their food options on campus and helping them cut meal expenses.PHOTO: FREE FOOD@NTU /TELEGRAM

Chat groups alert them to campus buffet leftovers that would otherwise go to waste

Where there are hungry university undergraduates, there are innovative ways to get free food.

Organised systems have sprouted up in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU) to notify students of leftovers at buffets on campus.

A chat group on messaging app Telegram was set up on Sept 21 by first-year NTU students Marisa Lee and Valerie Wong, both 20, reported the Nanyang Chronicle. There are currently more than 1,800 people in the group as of yesterday.

They were inspired to start the group after noticing full trays of rice, meat and vegetables being swept into a bin, while leaving a lecture.

The students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information figured they could save money if they had access to the leftovers, and decided to take action.

"Food is often over-catered (at buffets). After the guests have finished eating, the leftovers often go to waste," Miss Lee explained to the Nanyang Chronicle.

The group's popularity has surged, with students praising it for reducing food wastage, widening their food options on campus and helping them cut meal expenses.

  • 1,800

    Number of people in a chat group that informs NTU undergrads where buffet leftovers can be found on campus.

Third-year School of Social Sciences student Cherine Quek, 23, who was "amused" when she found out about the group, told the Nanyang Chronicle: "It is a combination of two things that Singaporeans love: free things and eating."

Over at SMU, a Telegram group called SMU Buffet Clearers has sprung up. It now has about 1,670 members. A pinned note instructs members to send the location and ending time of any buffet they come across.

It tells them to first get permission from the buffet organisers that they indeed no longer want the food, before sending out the call that food is available.

The chat group administrator, who wants to be known only as Jolene, 20, a smart-city management and technology major, told The Straits Times she started the group with three project group mates from a module on sustainable cities.

They had just ended a project meeting when some people invited them to help finish a buffet where there was some leftover food.

"I think there was a talk going on. So we started a chat as a joke to spread the word. Three weeks later, there are over 1,600 people."

The chat is a completely student-run initiative and they have not received any instructions from the school about stopping its activities.

She said: "We help to save a lot of leftover food, so there is no longer a lot of food wastage. Also, it gives us university students the opportunity to eat free food."

Civil engineering major Daniel Lim, 21, joined the group at the end of last month and has gone for one of the "buffet clearing" sessions.

"This initiative reduces food wastage and helps lessen the burden on our wallets," he told ST.

 

In an interview with ST this month, NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan lauded the efforts of NUS' "buffet response team" - an informal group set up by its undergraduates to help finish the leftover food at buffet receptions on campus.

Professor Tan commended it as an example of how students are thinking out of the box, saying: "(This is) quite creative thinking. You are matching excess food with a group of people who would not mind having a meal and, in the process, reducing wastage."

Professor William Chen, director of NTU's Food Science and Technology Programme, said students should be wary of eating the leftover food as bacteria can contaminate it if it is left out in the open for long, causing food poisoning, reported the Nanyang Chronicle.

Prof Chen said that a better way to handle the food wastage problem is to deal with the root cause of over-catering.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Undergrads get connected for buffet spreads'. Print Edition | Subscribe