Editorial: Students, CDS must help reduce food waste

Getting rid of all-you-can-eat options and reducing prices on individual food items is crucial to preventing the production of more food waste.

MU is ranked 16th on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the top 30 green-power-using schools, and yet we are perpetuating a serious environmental problem due to our high levels of food waste on campus.

“Waste Not, Want Not”, a Mizzou Advantage-sponsored task force that studies food waste, is launching a two-week campaign to bring attention to food waste produced by campus dining halls. A recent study the group conducted found that during a three-month period, Dobbs, Rollins, The MARK on Fifth and Plaza 900 lost 16.4 percent of all food that reached the retail level as waste.

The food waste generated in the dining halls also produced 67.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in food waste, 34.1 metric tons of which came from meat and poultry.

In the final results of the 2014 Recycle Mania Tournament, MU ranked 133rd out of 162 schools competing in the category of food service organics. Comparatively, the University of Kansas and Syracuse University, both schools of relatively similar size to MU, were ranked 58th and 41st, respectively.

Food waste is a growing problem on campus. If we keep wasting food at this level, we will likely see continued increases both in food prices and in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from the waste. We must improve the way we deal with food waste on this campus to curb these environmental costs.

Campus Dining Services has been doing good work in trying to effectively decrease the amount of food waste produced from our dining halls. By going trayless and giving 160,000 pounds of food waste to Bradford Research Center for composting, they have made a significant impact. However, there is still room for improvement.

CDS needs to change the way students purchase food. Having affordable singular items at their to-go locations is one way to change this. Creating more affordable prices for singular food products that students can save and eat later would be an effective way to curb food waste. With lower prices on these items, less students will waste food in the dining halls.

The all-you-can-eat style currently present in dining halls is problematic. Allowing students to get as much food as they want with a single swipe tends to lead to students taking more food than they will eat and create more waste. Starting with the replacement of Dobbs, CDS should work to redesign the overall system of residential dining halls.

Consider introducing a new system in which every meal a student takes is worth one meal swipe, as opposed to using one meal swipe to get as much food as they want. This way, students would be less inclined to go get another plate of food that they won’t finish.

Another problem that contributes to more food waste in dining halls may be the quality of the food being served. If a student takes a plate of food, tries it and dislikes it, they’re going to throw it away. Providing students better quality food is not only healthier for them, but would help conserve food in dining halls.

That said, CDS cannot be solely held responsible for reducing food waste on campus. Students must make a serious effort to take they will eat and to eat what they take. If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re going to finish a part of your meal, take less food. Don’t force yourself to overeat, but don’t waste food that you take from dining halls. Look at the way you consume food, and take food accordingly.

MU’s sustainability mission statement says the university is “committed to leadership in demonstrating local and global environmental stewardship”. But reducing emissions and increasing efficiency must be an across-the-board effort, and our dismal ranking among U.S. schools in food waste detracts from MU’s other efforts to be “green.” If we truly want to be leaders in sustainability, then let’s be a leader in all categories.

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