Did you throw away uneaten food today? Did you let a waiter at The Cellar or an off-campus restaurant clear your plate without boxing up leftover food? If so, consider this: On average, college campuses throw out 22 million pounds of uneaten food in one year, while one in six Americans go hungry.
Next time you put your dishes on the conveyor belt in the Heilman Dining Center, look a little closer. A multitude of the dining hall's most delicious and popular foods, including panini sandwiches, sizzling salads, "mozz sticks" and, most frequently, desserts are left uneaten on trays to be thrown away after each meal. So, what can you do to prevent food waste?
Here are seven tips to reduce unnecessary food waste on campus:
- Only take what you can eat! You can go back and get as many plates of food as you want from the dining hall, but be sure that you have eaten all the food on one plate before getting another plate.
- Share desserts! Most people say, “I just want a bite,” when talking about the dining hall's famous desserts. If that's the case, share with a friend! Don’t get a dessert if you plan on throwing it away after one bite.
- Only take fruit out of the dining hall if you plan on eating it soon. Many people take fruit back to their dorm rooms, forget about it, and end up tossing it when it becomes mushy. If you don’t plan on eating the fruit that day or the next morning, don’t bring it back to your room. You can always stop in the dining hall tomorrow when you’re craving it.
- Take leftover food back to your room for later. If you eat at Passport Cafe, Lou’s Cafe or Tyler's, take back leftover food and store it in your refrigerator or in a friend’s refrigerator. Ask for a box at The Cellar or off-campus restaurants. You’ll thank yourself when you want a late-night snack!
- Don’t throw away food just because of the date printed on it. There are general guidelines regarding the peak quality of food, and most food is still fresh days to weeks after the date has passed. Use www.eatbydate.com to look up a specific food, or use smell, appearance and the egg test as indicators of freshness.
- Get creative with extra food. If you have too much broccoli or mushy bananas, use them for a smoothie. It'll still have the same great taste!
- Donate food. If you’re cleaning out your food stash and just don’t want that box of crackers anymore, give it to a friend or donate it to a food bank if it’s still good.
Contact lifestyle writer Libby Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.