Et tu, Mr. Higgins?
By ANYA SARETZKY
An anonymous source from within Sodexo management told The Perspective that the Library Café throws away “at least ten pounds” of uneaten food each evening, while across campus, dining services as a whole wastes over 150 pounds on a daily basis. The source would be fired if he or she were to give students free food after closing – and has been reprimanded in the past for attempting to do so. The source points out the glaring hypocrisy in Sodexo’s enthusiastic promotion of canned food drives while, simultaneously, unspoiled food that could easily be sent to local pantries is intentionally wasted.
Though The College of New Jersey has distanced itself from Trenton by name, we nevertheless reside mere blocks away from a city in which nearly one in four individuals live below the poverty line. Throughout the nation, the effects of the recession have resulted in a greater dependency on food stamps; today, an eighth of Americans and a quarter of children rely on government aid to feed themselves. To those of us with unlimited college meal plans, our most pressing food-related problem may be the soggy quality of Eickhoff’s grilled cheese. But hunger is a constant concern for millions of Americans, many of them TCNJ’s close neighbors.
John Higgins, general manager of Sodexo Dining Services, once again declined to comment for this article. Thus, the official rationale for allowing this shameful amount of food waste could not be ascertained; one might argue, however, that liability issues could arise if unused food were to be donated. But such objections have long been rendered obsolete. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act provides legal protection to donors that contribute food to nonprofit organizations in good faith. As our anonymous source rightly wonders, “what are they losing by letting someone eat a meal?”
To be sure, Sodexo is not alone in wasting food. Nationally, forty to fifty percent – over twenty-five million tons – of all food produced is never eaten. The United Nations Food Programme estimates that this waste alone could feed every hungry person in Africa. Considering that over a billion people in the world are living in hunger, with 3.5 million dying as a result of under-nutrition every year, it seems of little inconvenience to send a few dozen paninis to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.
Apart from the ubiquity of unnecessary hunger that could be easily remedied with the elimination of waste, guided food management is crucial in staving off climate change. Indeed, the production of meat alone creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined, and the United States could cut its environmental impact in half by eliminating food-related waste.
By redirecting these pounds of perishables from the garbage can to the mouths of hungry people, TCNJ could also limit its contributions to toxic landfills, where food cannot decompose sustainably. What is the most sustainable way to dispose of food, you ask? Return it to the earth by composting. Unlike Princeton, Brown, Cornell, and Harvard, our “public Ivy” condemns all of its food waste to landfill doom. As TCNJ’s paninis rot in heaps of garbage, they exude methane gas, which is twenty times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
What is particularly tragic is that climate change, exacerbated by needless food waste, will actually worsen the problem of food insecurity in the developing world. By 2050, climactic shifts will be responsible for decreased agricultural yields of up to twenty-two percent in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. As a result of this global decline in food production, ten to twenty percent more people worldwide will go hungry, with an estimated nineteen million children suffering from malnourishment.
As evidenced by its emphatic calls for canned food donations, Sodexo is clearly well aware of the needs that exist within our community. Unfortunately, the huge amount of food waste generated by dining services belies whatever commitment they purport to have made; Sodexo’s claim that “Dining Services at The College of New Jersey is on the forefront of implementing sustainable initiatives into its operations” seems laughable in light of these ongoing practices. With each sandwich it sends to rot every evening, Sodexo is carelessly throwing away its potential to facilitate positive environmental and humanitarian change.