Editorial: Cutting down the waste

Bret Belden

By TNH Editorial Staff

In 45 minutes at Holloway Commons, the dining hall staff see an 84-pound waste bucket fill with food thrown away by students who’ve either taken more food than they can eat or decided they didn’t like a certain menu item and tossed in the trash to choose another. This 84-pound drum — though it may be filled with half-eaten slices of pizza and grilled chicken — would be able to feed a significant amount of those who go hungry right here in the United States.

Five and a half pounds of waste can be cleaned off of the countertops alone in just an hour at HoCo.

This is not a knock against the UNH dining staff and management. The leftover food is converted into compost (400-600 pounds of it a year) and used to grow produce in on-campus greenhouses as well as in the flowerbeds across campus. But what if there was no need to throw that much food away?

Food waste is only the first problem.

Another significant issue across all college campuses is the weight gain that many students experience when they first enter college, also known as the “freshman 15.” Some might blame it on an increase in alcohol consumption and late night pizza, but students are faced with several issues that make eating healthy and in healthy portions difficult.

When a student first walks into Philbrook or HoCo, the least healthy food options are staring him or her right in the face, making it hard to walk away. Having a buffet-style dining hall for every dining option also may not be the best idea. For those students who have swipe meal plans, a swipe is a dollar amount and to get their money’s worth, they are more inclined to overeat. Even when the food pyramid is printed on many plates, it’s obvious that students aren’t as conscious to what they are putting into their bodies, and saying that students simply need to have more self control can only go so far when a large group experiences the same problem.

What is the reasoning for the buffet-style dining halls?

Several colleges around the country such as the University of Connecticut offer plans that run on a dining dollars system but have a restaurant style feel where you pick an item and then pay for any items you plan on eating. Others have a swipe system that only allows you a certain number of items to eat. While the dining staff already tracks how much food is thrown away, it might be able to control the amount of waste put out if meals were served more similarly to Union Court. It isn’t a coincidence that the two issues are both prominent on college campuses; they feed off of each other.