IC’s food waste problem
In a world where enough calories are produced to feed everyone, we have obesity and starvation. Why? Roughly 1/3 of food produced for human consumption is wasted globally. On a more local level, the average American wastes between 209 and 254 pounds of food annually, while in 2010, 17.2 million American households struggled to feed everyone in the family.
Food waste has a big impact on the environment. We put ample resources into producing food, especially meat, and we expend fossil fuels to transport it. When we waste food, we’re wasting more than just calories.
I was drawn to Ithaca College for its environmental conscientiousness, but I’ve quickly realized how far it is from sustainable. One action needed to achieve its green goals is to address food waste.
Marissa Fortman, a sophomore student manager at Campus Center Dining, told me about waste at her workplace.
“At the end of each [meal], if there are any extras they get composted…which means there could be a whole pan of oatmeal, and then if that doesn’t get eaten by the time we’re closing breakfast, it just gets dumped,” Fortman said. “And then things like pizza, pasta, again, anything that’s in the hot lines, when the shifts are done…they get dumped.” Fortman said she’s long wanted to confront her bosses about this, and she’s not the only employee who is bothered.
Stop Wasting Ithaca’s Food Today, a student organization, addresses this problem. Every Friday they meet at Towers Dining to package leftover food and deliver it to the local American Red Cross. While SWIFT has the right idea, the club is limited because it can only rescue food from one dining hall on one day of the week, which barely scratches the surface. Megan Strouse, senior president of SWIFT, wants to expand the club’s reach, but said there are obstacles.
“If we moved into other dining halls, I don’t know what times we’d be able to get into the dining hall, whether the Red Cross would be open for delivery,” Strouse said. She also said the club needs 21 regular members, seven for each dining hall, to successfully expand.
Even if SWIFT covered all three halls, there are other eateries at IC to consider, like La Vincita. Collaboration between students, college administration, and dining hall staff is needed to eliminate excessive disposal of edible food.
Students need to be aware of portion control and eat everything on their plates. The dining hall staff needs to be more conscious of how they cook and serve food. Also, more innovative methods of food reuse should be implemented. Terrace Dining composts their bread heels, when instead they could be saved to make breadcrumbs. If the food is still edible, it should be preserved meal-to-meal, day-to-day, so it can be eaten. The college administration should be involved with this issue and provide policies and equipment for the dining halls to achieve these means.
To help solve food waste and high college costs, a cheaper meal plan could be designed for students from low-income backgrounds, allowing them to obtain a few free meals each week. These meals would be comprised of food that would otherwise be thrown out, wasting the money the college spent on it. There would probably have to be after-hour times where students could pick up the food.
Food waste is a serious problem, and with awareness and action, it can be solved at the college. Students: eat everything on your plates, consider joining SWIFT, staple this page onto a dining hall comment card. If IC wants to consider itself sustainable, food waste has got to stop.
Faith Meckley is a freshman journalism major who’s hungry for sustainability. Email her at fmeckle1[at]ithaca.edu.