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We should only take the food we’ll eat

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Before coming to St. Olaf, I had heard many stories about this college being very environmentally focused. When I actually came to campus, things were slightly different from what I had expected.

Yes, I’m going to talk about food waste on campus. It’s perfectly understandable that we don’t always mind the amount of food we leave on our trays after we finish eating, but the amount of food wasted daily is enormous. I had a discussion with one of my friends who works in the dishroom who was truly terrified by the fact that people throw uneaten fruit away instead of taking it and saving it for later.  Why do we waste so much?

First, we are pressured by time. Stav Hall’s opening hours are not always suitable for everyone, so we have to rush to get food between classes. For example, my classes start at 11:50 a.m. and I have a little break from 12:45 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. It’s not enough time to run from my class all the way to Buntrock and back. Second, we are pressured by the amount of money or meals we can have per day. Everybody knows if we don’t have our daily three meals, we lose money for the ones skipped. Each meal costs around $12-13. It doesn’t make much sense to waste it on just a cup of coffee or an apple, so we try to make each meal worth our money. Third, the amount of food we get is fixed. You can’t always finish the portion of food the caf staff gives you, and – to be honest – sometimes the portions are enormous.

The University of Michigan dealt with food waste by giving students smaller portions. They also changed the card swipe policy and gave students an unlimited amount of swipes to allow them to take smaller items and revisit the cafeterias any time. I think the University of Michigan succeeded, as they managed to reduce their waste by 29.6%. Another good example of what can be done is the strategy used by Ursinus College. They got rid of trays to encourage students to take less food.

“It’s perfectly understandable that we don’t always mind the amount of food we leave on our trays after we finish eating, but the amount of food wasted daily is enormous.” – Aliakasandra Kazharskaya ’22

At my high school, the environmental club made posters about food waste and placed them in the cafeteria. Surprisingly, even a piece of paper can make a change, as the posters raised awareness about this issue.

Student government has to work towards raising awareness about the issue of food waste. It might not seem important, but if no one points out our mistakes we simply don’t see them. We also dispose of a lot of plastic. We say that we’re environmentally friendly, but have you ever noticed how many packages we have in a single bag lunch? We got rid of straws, but we have so much more to do.

Food waste on campus is one of the major issues that very few people are paying attention to. It won’t be easy to change people’s mindset, but we can try to work together. Obviously, it will take time to make big adjustments, such as changing the dining hours or doing something with bag lunches, but we can start by changing ourselves. We could also sort out the unwanted food about to go to waste and give it to people in need.

My message is very simple: please take less food on your tray and get more later. That’s what worked for my high school and I believe it will work here as well. Let’s try and make our campus better together.


Aliaksandra Kazharskaya ’22 (kazhar1@stolaf.edu) is from Minsk, Belarus. Her major is undecided.