Running Princeton’s dining halls, which provide food to thousands of students every single day, is a mammoth operation. The dining hall staff and student employees work tirelessly to prepare diverse and healthy food options at each dining unit. At the same time, because it is understandably impossible to predict exactly how many students will eat at a particular dining hall at a given meal, some food is wasted in the dining halls each day. The Board proposes a program that we see as a win-win: cutting down on food waste by providing leftovers to those without meal plans.
Independent students opt out of a meal plan for many different reasons and feed themselves in many different ways. A popular resource among independent students is the Free Food listserv, where leftovers from campus events are advertised to those who are interested; this reduces cleanup and waste, and is much appreciated by independents, who accept the food on an as-is basis. The Board proposes that dining halls supply independent students with leftovers using the following scheme: for the last five minutes of dinner, the dining halls will be open to any Princeton student, regardless of meal plan. Food that can be served again will be put away, and no new food will be put out, so, in these last five minutes, only food that would otherwise go to waste will be provided. Independent students can take advantage of this on an as-is basis, and get a quick bite to eat between 7:55 p.m. and whenever the dining hall staff begin asking students to leave, usually around 8:10 p.m.
One counterargument to this proposal is that it would incentivize becoming independent and so start becoming a drain on the dining unit’s resources. However, the bulk of dining hall contracts are held by underclassmen, who are not eligible to be independent. Additionally, this program is primarily a way of reducing waste, and is not comparable to a meal plan —independents would have an extremely limited time frame to get food, and very limited options. Due to these inconveniences, we believe that the number of students who would drop an eating club plan to subsist off of this food source is quite small. This is especially true given that people join eating clubs for many reasons other than the food.
That said, we acknowledge the logistical difficulties of implementing this plan, and so we suggest that this program be begun on an experimental basis. For example, dining halls could have one or two “Independent Nights” per week where this plan is implemented. If it does not cause an undue burden on the dining staff and does not seriously impact the experience of meal plan holders, we propose that it be expanded to other nights during the week and possibly lunches as well. This trial period will allow unforeseen logistical issues to be resolved. For example, if it turns out that an unmanageable number of independent students flow into the dining hall at the end of dinner, a weekly cap of such meals could be imposed on independents, enforced by a prox swipe.
The dining halls do a great job of feeding the majority of Princeton students. That said, we believe that food waste carries an environmental and ethical impact. Our plan would reduce some of this waste and provide an extra food source for independents. We envision a successful mutualistic relationship, one in which independent students acknowledge the favor the dining halls are doing them and do not abuse the system. We hope that with this plan, Princeton can become a more environmentally friendly place, while also serving its students in the best manner possible.
Megan Armstrong ‘19, Allison Berger ‘18, Paul Draper ‘18, Carolyn Liziewski ‘18, and Connor Pfeiffer ‘18 abstained from the writing of this editorial.TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief.