If you ate lunch in the dining halls during Green Wars, you may have noticed a fluorescent presence near the dish conveyors. Fluorescent waste patrol vests were worn by Clean Plate Club Initiative volunteers. They were there to promote reducing food waste in the dining halls and to bring the problem of food waste into the cafeteria dialogue.
Food waste is a huge problem. In the U.S., Food production uses over 10% of energy, 50% of land, and 80% of freshwater. 40% of this food goes uneaten. At the same time, one of every six people lacks a secure food supply (Gunders 2012). As a food activist, I can support local, organic, humane, and fair-trade food but my efforts are killed if this carefully produced food ends up in the garbage. To be a “conscious consumer” means little if you are not conscious of what you are not consuming (wasting) as well.
During the initiative, many students proudly returned squeaky-clean plates to the conveyors for a raffle ticket reward. Over the entire week, 840 raffle tickets were awarded. These tickets were placed in a raffle with over 40 prizes from local businesses and Bon Appetit.
The results of the initiative were;
1) A significant reduction in food waste. [Pre-initiative waste measurement results showed an average of 3.2oz of food waste/plate, during the initiative this number reduced to 2.0oz of food waste/plate.]
2) A donation from Carleton College to the food pantry. [840 clean plates x 3.2 oz food waste/plate x .13c/oz of food = $344.49!]
3) A framework for discussion. The presence of fluorescent vests and the passionate volunteers behind them got students thinking about their food waste. This is the start of a meaningful conversation about food waste on campus.
Thank you students — for thinking about reducing your food waste, and, to the thoughtful and waste-free, welcome to the Clean Plate Club. Your hunger for change should not stop here.
Thank you Bon Appetit — for making filling our plate with delicious food easy at every meal and for supporting this effort.
& Thank you Carleton College for your institutional support and for donating to the food pantry.
Gunders, Dana. “Wasted: How America is losing 40% of its food from Farm to Fork to Landfill” NDRC Issue Paper. National Resources Defense Council. August 2012. IP:12-06-B. Retrieved from http://www.nrdc.org/food/wasted-food.asp on 11 February 2013