How wasting food on campus affects people everywhere
By Shalmali Ghate
During Diwali, the festival of lights in India, scores of sweets and treats are accumulated by children in the area. However, they always wind up with an overabundance of sweets, causing mothers to force their children to eat
them all in order to avoid wasting food. When my family and I came up with ideas to eliminate the sweets after the festival, my grandmother would tell stories about different ways in which God punishes those who waste food.
During my senior year of high school, I found a grand solution to escape from eating the infinite stock of desserts by taking them to a nearby orphanage. While distributing them and feeling very happy about not having to eat them anymore, a curious thing happened. Some kids came up and asked me if there were more left! Some others told me that the sweets were the most delicious ones they had ever eaten, and that they would never forget me. A bit perplexed, I checked my bag of sweets to verify that they were the same ones from home. When I confirmed they were, my mind felt guilty about the misjudgment I had made about those sweets for the past fifteen years.
In contrast, on my first day in the Clark University cafeteria, I witnessed heaps of food being thrown into the garbage without a second thought about waste. I find it abhorrent that some people are dying from starvation and others have an abundance of food which they throw away. As I mulled this over, a boy sitting next to me began a conversation about how he didn’t have enough money to pay for tuition, while he got ready to throw away three full plates of food and leave. It is striking how wasteful people can be even when they know what it feels like to be lacking something.
The fault here lies in the lack of awareness about other parts of the world where people struggle to eat a single meal per day. The 2010 statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations state that 925 million people in the world are undernourished (www.worldhunger.org). Starvation is currently an even higher cause of death than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV combined (www.noworldsystem.com). Over nine million people die worldwide each year because of hunger and malnutrition, five million of whom are children (www.globalissues.org). It is sad that so many go hungry in this world of beauty.
There is no single reason for hunger in the world. Many people believe that the main cause is that there is simply not enough food to go around, but surprisingly this is not true. “The food resources of the world are abundant rather than scarce,” says Peter Rosset, director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy in California (www.globalissues.org). Poverty is the real cause of world hunger – there is enough food to go around, but many cannot actually afford it.
Students often feel there is nothing that they can do to help because they lack the money and time to devote to social issues. But there are various ways in which everyone can contribute towards solving these problems. For instance, small alterations in daily consumption habits can reduce the world’s hunger problem. College students can take initiatives against wasting food by consciously deciding what and how much food they want to eat and taking only the required amount of food. This would result in a significant waste reduction. A decrease in food waste results in decreased consumption, which in turn will result in increased supply. An increase in supply reduces the cost of the food, making it affordable to an increased number of people. College dining halls, which estimate how much food they will need in a day rather than producing the minimum they need, can take certain measures to reduce waste which undoubtedly will have a positive impact on society.
Some colleges in the United States conducted studies about food waste on their campuses in order to spread awareness. One such study was conducted in the Dulany Dining Hall of Columbia College. It was found that among the 284 meals served, 70 pounds of food was wasted, which could have served approximately 100 more meals (www.ccis.edu).
Various programs have been adopted by colleges to avoid wasting food in their cafeterias after recognizing the quantity of waste. A good example is the initiative taken in the University of California at Santa Cruz, which eliminated trays from its cafeteria. This policy was implemented after it was observed that students tended to fill their trays with more than they could eat and throw much of it away. The university found that 25 to 30 percent of its food waste was eliminated by the adoption of this policy (www.time.com). Another prominent project adopted by colleges across the country is the Campus Kitchen Project. Under this initiative, all remaining waste is repackaged into a food bag by trained students and distributed among the needy (www.campuskitchens.org). Small changes such as these can have a major impact, and every single plate saved in the cafeteria can alleviate another individual’s hunger. Spreading awareness will motivate people to take action against such problems facing the world. Now that you know a bit more about food waste, what will be your smart decision during your next meal?