You can’t deny your privilege when you are the one dumping your full plate of untouched food into the garbage.
We were taught when we were little to “finish your plate”, “only take what you’ll eat”, and “be grateful because there’s another kid out there wishing they could have this meal.” Yet, here we are, attending a school with the mentality of the conserver and the actions of the ungrateful squanderer.
You’ve heard of the Elon-Bubble. You probably live contently within it. For those of you on the outside of our school’s soapy slick confines, the Elon Bubble is that mentality of being the Global Citizen Elon claims to produce with its students, without any of the actions to back up that claim. We boast of how conscientious we are as a school but simply look at our campus’ dining system.
The problem does not lie within the actions of the wonderful and hardworking dining staff who work day and night and late-night just to make sure we eat well. The problem is the administration's placed rules to give off an air of extravagance that the wonderful dining staff are employed to follow and in effect to that disillusioned extravagance are my fellow peers and my actions of waste.
The dining systems at Elon are focused on the appearance of how “high quality it is to go here” over the realities of the negative effects that illusion causes. We’ve all witnessed the “Tour Day Take Over” of the dining halls. Floods of prospective students roam the campus, and in turn its eateries, and in an attempt to woo said students and said students’ families, the staff churns out food that is fancier, that is tastier, and that is in more abundance. Yet, when those students and families leave, what is left?
The absurd amount of food that is shoveled into the trash.
Every day. After every meal. All year long.
As is the way of all Elon-Bubble inhabitants, our administration claims the waste is necessary to comply with health codes. See, the staff are required to dispose of any food that was exposed to the air at the end of each night as to not harm diners from food sitting out too long. Alright, I’ll bite, that’s understandable to a certain degree, but they are also required to follow a “fill to the brim” rule.
Any food option displayed for that day is constantly stocked, to ensure that air of luxury I mentioned earlier. The salad fixing containers are always overflowing. The entrees are cranked out non-stop for the entire dining block. This rule forces dining staff to trash more food at the end of the night then what is undeniably necessary to feed the school. The combination of these two rules leads to a shamefully hefty waste of food discarded into Elon trashcans daily.
The compliance with those aforementioned health codes also makes it so that the food left uneaten every night cannot be donated to any local food banks. If they did donate that food and something were to happen, like someone getting sick, then Elon would be liable. Again, that is understandable, but only to a certain degree.
Elon’s all about innovation, so why are we not invested in finding a safe way to maintain these foods’ necessary temperatures during transportation to charities? Also, doesn’t the constant positive of people getting the nutrition they need outweigh the possible negative of a donation mishap?
Some things need to change, Elon.
First and foremost, get rid of the filling to the brim rule. Honestly, seeing that Lakeside is just STOCKED with corn tidbits isn’t going to get you more commitments from kids. Along with that, replace the current food display containers, specifically at the salad bar, with more shallow ones. That way the illusion of their sacred endless corn is kept to appease the almighty administration without any of the current wasteful realities.
The same goes for supplying smaller serving dishes like the plates and bowls. Seeing as our eyes can be hungrier than our stomachs sometimes, smaller plates and bowls would lessen the impact of student over-serving.
Also, having the dining staff keep a daily log of what was popular and what was not would help with over-buying and over-preparing inevitably becoming wasting later.
Finally, and hear me out, having a late night Local's Hour where locals could come to campus and pay a discounted amount to eat (seeing as there’s only the left overs to choose from, they shouldn’t pay full price) would not only solve the waste problem but nourish some humans, get Elon some cash, and also expose us students to those outside the Elon-bubble- hopefully bursting that bubble once and for all.
Just remember, while these solutions may not ever be implemented, you can personally help out to lessen the waste of our school’s dining system. Simply be grateful, and act knowing the privilege you wield every time you go to scrape off your plate.