Handed to You on a Common’s Platter

This past summer, we participated in the Niswarth Learning in the World program and had the opportunity to visit India.

India is home to the largest undernourished population in the world, and we were exposed to the prominence of this issue when we visited undeveloped areas during the program. One of these places was an Anganwadi, which translates to community shelter and school, in the Kalol Village. Many of the children visibly suffered from malnutrition, but despite these circumstances, one particular boy wore the brightest smile on his face. The young boy’s teachers informed us that his family, like many others in the village, did not have enough money to provide him and his siblings proper nutrition. However, with the support of the Setco Foundation, which the Niswarth program partnered with, the young boy now has access to nutritious meals. This story is one of the many we must remember in order to keep our privilege of having access to Paresky Commons in check.

While malnutrition is a leading issue in India, the United States is facing the increasing issue of obesity and food waste. In the United States, about 40 percent of the total food supply is wasted.

This problem, however, is often not at the top of our minds. Most people on campus do not know, or do not take the initiative to figure out where their food waste is going and the amount of food our campus actually wastes. The conveyor belt system we have in Paresky Commons leaves a false impression that food waste disappears, and the buffet setup leaves another impression that we can waste food because the school is paying for it. Taking more than your share and throwing away leftovers may seem like no big deal, but day-by-day, our leftovers add up to mountains of waste.

This past December and January, Michael Giampa, food service director, and the dining hall staff weighed the total amount of compost each day in Paresky. From December 3 to December 16, Andover wasted a total of 5,177 pounds of food. It is undeniable that each of one us is responsible for these numbers. We should feel guilty when throwing away perfectly edible food. Not only because approximately 925 million people in the world suffer chronic hunger and food waste contributes 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases, but because we should never feel comfortable when wasting food.

Conquering the problem of food waste can be solved in multiple ways, but the most imminent to make an impact would be the Food Waste Challenge taking place on Andover’s campus in April. This challenge will hopefully achieve the goal of eliminating food waste within one mealtime and raise money for students at the Schools for the Blind in Ahmedabad, India. If implemented properly, the Food Waste Challenge would be a reoccurring event that could ensure the longevity of preventing food waste on Andover’s campus.

Reducing our food waste at Andover is a win-win situation. It would both save Paresky huge expenses and amounts food waste and also allow them to purchase more expensive foods, such as blueberries and avocados, which students often ask for. Additionally, simply reducing our food waste on campus could lead to the increase of food security and availability at schools in less-developed areas.

Even beyond the Food Waste Challenge, we hope students keep the issue of food waste in mind. The small actions of only taking what we can finish, and cleaning our plates can have a huge impact, whether the change is visible or not. Next time you are about to return your unclean plate, think of the millions of people in the world, like the young boy we met at the Anganwadi, who are suffering from malnutrition and would be shocked to see the uneaten food left on your plate.

Isabella Morona is a two-year Lower from Treviso, Italy. Allison Zhu is a two-year Lower from Shanghai, China.