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Combating Food Waste At Universities

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

With move-out coming up for college students, many on-campus residents are rushing to toss out leftover food and unnecessary items. While disposing of expired microwave meals and uneaten leftovers may seem relatively mundane and convenient, recent studies show that limiting food waste is a number one thing you can do to fight climate change. 

In The United States, 38% of all foods end up unsold or uneaten, which is equivalent to 145 billion uneaten meals. Many factors can lead to food waste. For example, produce is rejected by grocery stores if it has an odd shape, blemishes or other cosmetic issues. However, food waste can also occur at the consumer level. Families across America tend to buy more food than they need or neglect to read the expiration dates for certain foods. This causes large amounts of food to go uneaten. 

Project Drawdown recently established that reducing food waste is one of the most effective strategies to combat climate change, eliciting gigatons of carbon dioxide over 30 years. 

During move-out, instead of throwing your food in the trash, there are many ways to upcycle or share these resources with others. For example, spoiled bananas can always be made into banana bread and decomposing food can be used as fertilizer in gardens. 

There are a lot of on-campus and local organizations that regularly accept food donations. Billiken Bounty Food Pantry, an organization on Saint Louis University’s campus, aims to fight food insecurity and accepts food donations year-round. Food Outreach is a local non-profit only 10 minutes from Saint Louis University’s campus that advocates for food justice. They regularly request donations and need volunteers to work shifts at their food pantry. 

There are other opportunities to fight food waste. For example, The Campus Kitchen is a student-led organization that prepares and distributes food throughout different neighborhoods in St. Louis. If you have a passion for cooking or baking, you can put your skills to good use by volunteering during one of their many volunteer shifts. If food prep isn’t your thing, they also need drivers and packers.

Billiken Bounty and Campus Ministry have also started a new initiative where students can pre-order items with remaining flex and have the items automatically delivered to Billiken Bounty. To donate, all students have to do is go to one of the convenience stores on campus and request a pre-order form. While food is in high demand, laundry detergent and menstrual hygiene products are also in high demand.

Fighting food waste can also be a daily thing. Instead of filling up your plate with food you know you won’t eat, start with small portions at the dining hall and then return for seconds if you’re still hungry. If you’re not finished with your food, put it in the fridge and eat it as a midnight snack instead of chucking it into the trash can. If you don’t like it, someone else might want it! 

Every small contribution makes a big difference. There are a lot of different strategies and methods to fight climate change. While only some have time to volunteer, there are still many simple and easy ways to be more efficient about how we use our food. By being more conscious about food waste, students can advocate for food and environmental justice in their everyday lives, ultimately helping our planet and combating climate change.

Camille is a social work student at Saint Louis University. Originally from Memphis, Camille likes to spend her time reading a good book, taking photos, or sipping an iced lavender latte with oat milk. She is an avid lover of pasta and cats.