Food waste continues to be a growing problem across the United States. There is roughly 130 million pounds of food wasted each year in the U.S., which amounts to about $160 billion lost in monetary value, according to the estimates recorded by the Food Recovery Network (FRN).
When comparing the amount of food wasted to the number of families that live below the poverty line, it doesn’t add up as to why both numbers are so high. The main question is, if there is a surplus of food, then why are people considered to be living in poverty struggling to get food, and healthy food at that?
College campuses across the states find themselves to be a large portion of those contributing to wasted food in the country, totaling about 22 million pounds each year, according to the FRN.
In a Huffington Post article written last August, Hixon Professor of Sustainable Environmental Design at Harvey Mudd College Tanja Srebotnjak outlined different ways college campuses can lower those numbers, and why those numbers may be so high.
“Although the average college student throws away 142 pounds of food per year, higher education has also been at the forefront of some of the most innovative and successful ideas for combating food waste,” she wrote.
Plattsburgh State has been making its own efforts to reduce the number of pounds of food wasted from its dining halls.
“Every time a student brings their plate to get washed in Clinton Dining Hall, we weigh the amount of food that they are wasting,” PSUC President of Student Association Vrinda Arun Kumar said. “If they aren’t wasting any food, then we give them a Student Association shirt, which helps incentivize students to not waste food.”
To address any issue at hand, the community must feel connected to the problem to feel the urge to bring about change. With the amount of health and food regulations, it is difficult to determine a solution that would comply with the standards, however, eliminating the mass amounts of wasted food by universities is at the forefront of discussion in big universities.
“We hope to do this more in the beginning for when freshmen are just arriving, so that they get into a good habit for the rest of the year,” Kumar said. “I feel like it is such a big problem on college campuses because not many people are overseeing it.”
There is no concrete solution that will completely eliminate wasted food, however, there are many ways to cut down on the amount wasted, which is why SA and College Auxiliary Services have teamed up to run these weigh-ins in select dining halls.
ticle, an affective measure would be to work with the dining services and café operators to come up with ideas to lower portion size, or to create a food collection and redistribution system, or even a compost pile.
“I always thought about making a program that takes the left-over food to shelters and places of need,” Kumar said. “Over the summer we will be coming up with other ideas to implement for next year.”
Another reason college students typically waste food is because it is not the healthiest. All-you-can-eat is a popular serving method on college campuses, many of which only offer the typical burger and fries or pizza and pasta.
Food on college campuses has always raised concerns due to its lack of taste and ability to please everyone’s needs. However, PSUC is doing what it can to offer variety in its dining halls while trying to serve food that pleases students and makes them want to finish.
“More clubs on campus are starting to look into this issue,” Kumar said. “As more people start to look into the problem, slowly but surely we will start to waste less and less.”
Email Ezra Kachaturian at firstname.lastname@example.org