Helping the Planet and the Poor

By Katelin Haley
Peace & Justice Editor

As much of campus is following the “go green” initiatives that are being promoted across the world, Dining Services is taking it one step further by both going green and donating to those in need through one initiative. “Project Clean Plate” is an initiative by Dining Services to reduce food waste in the dining hall. If you frequent the dining hall, you may be vaguely familiar with this initiative from the large bar graph in the dining hall. That big bar graph features more than just a made up number; it is the amount of food waste that is produced by students in two nights. Every two weeks, food waste from students will be weighed at the end of dinner. At the end of the month, the tally of waste will be revealed. The tally will be added to the bar graph that is in the dining hall after each weigh in.  The first weigh-ins yielded food waste of 175lbs. This number will serve as the benchmark weight that, ideally, will be reduced each month.

This effort is not merely a way to “go green” but is benefiting the local community. Each time that the waste is weighed, the poundage difference in the weight from the previous weigh in will be recorded and tallied. At the end of the semester, the weight difference will be donated to a local charity, such as St. Francis Soup Kitchen or United Neighborhood Centers food pantry. Additionally, Dining Services will donate to organizations in need throughout the semester as emergency needs arise, such as the empty shelves at the United Neighborhood Centers food pantry. With a 77% increase in persons seeking food assistance from food pantries, more and more places will be facing empty shelves and hungry patrons.

The increase in food pantry patrons has not been met by an increase in donation.  More and more people are feeling the affects of the economic situation and have less and less surplus to donate.  By reducing the amount we waste and donating the excess to those in need, we can work to fill the empty shelves at local food pantries and the empty stomachs of those in need.

The dining hall is also helping the environment by going tray-less to reduce the amount of water waste they create from washing trays. You can support their efforts and help them to go-greener by thinking twice before you grab a straw, only refilling your drink when you’re thirsty, and asking for a sample of a food if you’re not sure that you will eat a full portion. Your efforts to reduce waste will greatly benefit the people who are facing empty shelves at the local food pantries this winter.