In March of 2012, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned food donations to homeless shelters and food depots. The decision sparked a lot of controversy. Similarly, a policy at Oswego State prohibiting the donation of cafeteria foods to local food banks and shelters has been getting a lot of attention.
Bloomberg’s ban was structured on the basis of food quality. There was no way for shelters to assess the salt, fat and fiber content of donated foods. But with a dietician overlooking the food served in Oswego State campus cafeterias, including health-based initiatives, such as Meatless Mondays and Heart Healthy options, many wonder why most of the food students don’t eat gets thrown away.
“I think there’s a bit of a misconception,” said Shannon Brooks, a Cooper Dining Hall employee. “We try to keep or reuse as much food as possible. Not necessarily everything gets thrown out.”
When asked how much food is disposed, another employee had a different answer.
“I don’t even know, I couldn’t even tell you,” said Megan Mosher, a Littlepage Dining Hall employee. “I’d say 4-5 of the large garbage cans worth of fresh food gets thrown out every day.”
“It’s a waste,” said Lesley Semel, a Littlepage Dining Hall employee. “There’s so much food that goes into the dumpster, and there are so many children that could benefit from that food.”
Despite the fact that the food is thrown out, when asked why it isn’t put to better use, all employees stated that it was against policy.
“Once the food is away from them, they don’t have control of it,” said Mosher. “Meaning if someone decides to not eat it right away, and eat it a week later and it’s bad, it will somehow come back to them. But I feel like something could be signed or worked out.”
Though many paint the picture of the issue to be black or white, the reality of the situation lies somewhere in the middle.
“When we have a recess, for example spring break, we have the Oswego Salvation Army pick up all perishable foods from our Resident Dining Centers,” said Craig Traub, the director for resident dining. “These foods are served/distributed by the Salvation Army from their facility on West First Street. So far, this has been a very positive experience.”
While food is not donated weekly, or daily, steps have been taken to make more of the food available to those who need it most.