Letter to the Editor
Dining Services’ food waste should go to the needy
Jacob Clark, Graduate Student, Education
The Faculty/Staff Picnic was near Kennedy Union last Saturday, and while I’m sure a good time was had by those in attendance, I witnessed a scene that I found disturbing and outrageous in this time when so many people are lacking in basic human needs like food and shelter.
Around six p.m., when the event was closing down, I watched as student Dining Services employees dragged several large garbage cans to tables that held considerable amounts of food left over from the event. These included bowls of cold salads, baked beans and sandwiches. Seeing what was about to happen, several people, myself included, implored passing students to take some food before it was thrown away. The students started to approach the tables, but someone affiliated with the event shooed them away, saying the food was for “faculty and staff, not students.” I then watched in disgust as tens of pounds of perfectly good food was thrown into garbage cans. “We’re not allowed to give it away,” one of the workers told me when I confronted him about the waste. Watching this occur was very upsetting, knowing as I do there are poor people in the UD neighborhood who don’t get enough to eat every day.
It seems to me students should have been allowed to eat the food, but the issue is much larger than that. A report just this year by the National Resource Defense Council Food found that up to 40 percent of the total food production in the United States never gets eaten, at a cost of more than $25 billion a year. NRDC estimates that amount would provide 20 pounds monthly to every person in the United States. The waste in resources like land and water, coupled with the fossil fuels and fertilizers used in food production and which contribute to enormous environmental damage, drives those costs exponentially. And where does most of the wasted food go? Into our landfills, according to NRDC, which estimates that rotting food in landfills comprise 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions, a significant factor in climate change.
I decided to call a handful of local social-services agencies that provide aid to the homeless and hungry, relate to them what I saw and ask them whether, if permitted, they would have taken the leftovers and used them to feed the needy. All of them said they would have taken the food and given it to those who needed it.
I realize concerns about spoilage or contamination exists, but I can’t believe there’s no way this food can’t be saved—packed up and refrigerated for same-day pickup—to benefit the less fortunate. I believe Dining Services could make a real difference in the fight against hunger by coming up with a plan to ensure that food from large events like the Faculty/Staff Picnic where uneaten food is routinely tossed away. Considering the difficult times we live in, I believe that not only is throwing away food wasteful, it’s immoral.
I know there are several programs in place around the nation where restaurants and other entities that serve large volumes of food donate leftovers to food pantries and shelters. One that comes to mind is City Harvest, which has been operating in New York City for more than 25 years. I am sure there is some way the UD could partner with local social-service agencies to develop a plan to ensure perfectly good food is not thrown into the garbage dumpsters, but is given to those in need. UD professes to operate under Marianist principles; I don’t believe wasting large quantities of food when members of the surrounding community are hungry is one of them.