One university employee posted on Reddit to shine a light on a thorny issue taking place in their campus’ kitchens.
Cafeterias and kitchens at large institutions have to produce food in bulk. Sadly, that means there’s huge potential for waste, as a janitor and a lunch lady on Reddit talked about at their respective schools.
While some might hope that universities would be held to a higher standard, this Redditor provided photo evidence that it’s not the case. “I work at a major university,” they revealed in their post, before sharing a photo. “This is about 200 pounds of perfectly edible food.”
Their photo shows a green, wheeled garbage bin filled with what looks like the contents of a salad bar, including chopped fruit, whole strawberries, lettuce, sliced veggies, and chunks of chicken. The food looks fresh and fills the bin almost to the top.
“This is the waste from one kitchen, in one night,” the original poster explained. “There are dozens of such kitchens on campus.”
Many commenters had a visceral reaction to seeing that much good food hitting the garbage, even if the bin might have been destined for composting.
“People need to get more upset about this,” one user complained. “There are plenty of things that can be done with all that food if they are willing to just do a little work. Fruits can become jams and preserves, veggies and meats can go into soups, there are a ton of options. It’s laziness, pure and simple.”
But as others pointed out, it may not be that straightforward for a large institution to reuse or even donate food that’s been sitting out.
“Former kitchen manager here,” said one user. “We had to toss our line at the end of the night too because it’s a violation of health code to keep food in the danger zone (40-140 F) for over four hours. Therefore, leftovers at the end of the night get tossed. Decently managed places have very little waste, because inventory is ordered and lines are stocked close to demand.”
Still, if the food has been kept at a safe temperature, giving it away would be a much better solution. A Kroger and a Trader Joe’s gave away thousands of dollars worth of food when their equipment failed and it was clear the food was going to warm up, feeding many hungry people instead of letting good food go to waste.
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