Outdoor Action Program: Food Planning with a Database

Princeton University Outdoor Action Program
Caroline Stone
Document Date: 
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Document Source: 
Princeton University Outdoor Action Program

How to do manage food planning for over 800 people? At Princeton University we send over 800 students out on 75 trips for our 5-day outdoor orientation program. We use a pre-planned menu approach (planning breakfasts, lunches and dinners) as compared to the ration approach of providing a certain amount of various staples. We have to deal with different size groups, special dietary needs like peanut free/nut free, gluten free, and kosher. Tracking, ordering, and packing all this food is a huge task.

We built our own Food Database System a number of years ago that utilizes a Microsoft Access Database and this really revolutionized and simplified our process. The Database does the complex calculations on food needed across all the different trip permutations. This allows us to enter the number of trips of different size (e.g. 10 vs 12), number of kosher trips, peanut-free trips etc. The Access Database then does the calculations of how much of each food type we need to order, generates order forms for vendors, prints out packing labels for what needs to be packed in each box for each trip, etc.

This walkthrough will show you the basics of our Food Database System. You can download a working copy of the Microsoft Access Database fully populated with sample data to experiment with and develop your own solutions from. This is released under the Apache License, Version 2.0.

Developer: Caroline Stone