Securing Your Next Meal: The Student Struggle


Seven thousand. Estimated by Student Affairs, that’s how many students at the University of Georgia are “food insecure or lack enough funding for basic life needs.” What is food insecurity? The United States Department of Agriculture outlines food insecurity as not having consistent, reliable access to amounts of food sufficient for active, healthy lifestyles.

Credit: Tate Student Center; Student Affairs

The Food Recovery Network, a student movement that works to fight waste and end hunger, reports that 22 million pounds of food is thrown out by college campuses each year. That’s 11,000 tons. Think about it this way: the average Blue Whale weighs approximately 150 tons. It would take about 73 Blue Whales to amount to 11,000 tons and that’s how much food colleges are tossing out per year. Talk about perspective, huh. That’s a lot of food that could be saved and given to those who need it, like the 10% of food insecure students at UGA.

Every year food scholarships are awarded to students at UGA. Student Affairs sponsors and provides about 30 food scholarships each year to students who may not have the financial means of attaining a meal plan. Danielle Bouton, the Associate Director of Meal Plan Operations for UGA Dining Services says that UGA has the chance to sponsor about 6 out of those 30.

While their affiliation with student food scholarships is greatly beneficial, that’s not all UGA Dining Services is doing in the fight to reduce food waste and food insecurity.

What else is UGA Dining Services doing to reduce food waste and help those in need?

As seen in the video, UGA Dining Services is working hard to compost food scraps and leftovers to reduce the amount of waste they produce each day. Rachel Swanson, a senior at UGA, worked at Bolton Dining Commons on campus in the spring of 2017. Swanson worked in the dish line and was responsible for scraping leftover food off of plates and into the water line that leads to the pulper that Bouton mentions above. Overall, Swanson believes that Bolton is very well organized and energy efficient, but she still saw a decent amount of food that was being wasted daily. The main source of waste she saw was from students who would grab pieces of fruit such as apples and bananas, end up not eating them, and ultimately throw the whole piece away. Swanson is convinced that “dining halls would benefit from providing smaller plates and trays to avoid students piling up food that they do not plan on eating.”

Cora Aman, a graduate student here at UGA, works at The Savannah Room at The Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Hotel, which is on UGA’s campus.

Aman shares that she has seen “pans and pans of food thrown out. Certainly no less than enough to feed a family of four, and definitely enough for up to 20 or more people.”

She also claims that she has seen all of this food thrown out in the trash, not composted or donated.

A lot of this wasted food could be going to those in need in the Athens community, including the students who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Plus, by simply composting food scraps, like the dining halls do, we are not only able to eliminate 99.6% of volatile organic chemicals in the air, but we reduce the overall amount of food we are wasting, making more available to those who need it.

Published by the journal PLOS ONE, about 77% of the U.S. population feels bad when they throw food away. As we continue on to a new year full of new opportunities, we can focus on steering away from the guilt of food waste and towards ending food insecurity and hunger. By taking more steps like composting and being conscious of how much we throw out, we can make a difference in our environment and in the lives of those who are food insecure.

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