A Mess in the Mess Hall: How much food is actually wasted in the CI?

Connie Morales

It is a well-known fact that hunger is one of the world’s leading issues and we need to find a solution as quickly as possible. However, before we can make a global impact, we need to look a little closer to home.

Many of us choose to dine at the CI for our daily meals and enjoy the all-you-can-eat services it provides, as well as the convenience of it’s location on campus.
A Food Waste Audit was performed recently in a collaboration with the Sustainability Club, Food Recovery Network, and the Environmental Committee to determine how much food on campus is being wasted.

For the Food Waste Audit, the Sustainability Club kept and documented mostly uneaten food on two separate days, in order to get an “unbiased baseline for the food waste,” according to their follow-up Powerpoint displaying their results.

On Tuesday, they collected food from behind the tray turnstiles, and on Thursday they were out in front, taking plates directly from students, to ensure the amount of food waste was consistent and not affected by their presence. The club separated napkins from food waste, and liquids from solids.

On Tuesday, the waste totaled 228.6 lbs, which comes out to approximately 12.19 oz of food waste per person, with the average of 300 diners in the CI per meal. Environment Action Advocate Maddie McMurray stated that “Both myself and the people who helped with the audit were astounded by the amounts of food that went to waste, especially the food that went untouched and was turned in to us.  Entire hamburgers, cookies, and wraps had only one bite taken out of them and thrown away.” McMurray states that so much food could have been wasted because, “people may not have liked what the CI was serving that day.”

Thursday’s total came out to 272.35 lbs of food waste, approximately 14.53 oz of food waste per person.  Combined, food loss was estimated at 500.95 pounds. Interestingly enough, the Sustainability Club says this is approximately 50 lbs more wastes per session compared to last semester. Additionally, unused napkin waste is at an all -time high.

In order to prevent this from continuing in the future, McMurray urges students to make use of the comment cards in the CI to inform the college of what they do and do not want to see on the menu. Additionally, the Sustainability Club asks students to take only what they will eat. Given the buffet style of dining in the CI, students often grab food without thinking, resulting in waste. The Sustainability Club also suggests monitoring food waste in other areas, like grocery shopping and catered meals.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to stop this massive misuse of food that can be given to someone who needs it more.