News / Opinions

Bon Appétit’s Commitment to Socially Irresponsible Food Waste

by Erin Corbett –

If you’ve been at Hampshire lately, you probably know about Bon Appétit as our new food service provider.  Over the past year, Hampshire has been in the process of a Healthy Food Transition, declaring:

“We are starting to envision a Hampshire Healthy Food transition, with a goal of changing the enterprise of producing, preparing, consuming, and managing food on campus, using food as a means to teach students, communicate values, experiment with new models of food systems that solve problems, influence our peers, and serve our community.”

The feedback has been mostly positive! Most agree that the food is much better than it was with Sodexho, that there is more variety, that the food is fresher; there are more local foods being used!

And to make things even better, Bon Appétit is known for its “commitment to socially responsible practices,” states their website.

This match with Hampshire seems almost perfect right? Fresh, local foods and socially responsible practices are fitting for a diverse community of activists, artists, educators, students.

That’s why I was utterly disgusted when I went up to the faculty lounge at the end of Family Orientation to find a garbage bin filled with leftover cookies.

You might wonder why I care so much about this and I am glad to explain.

Do you remember last semester when the Commencement ceremony lunch ended and multiple students wrote in the Daily Digest about the amount of lunch packages that were wasted? (Daily Digest announcements dated back to 5/18/13 and 5/21/13).

Do you remember the response from the General Manager of the Dining Commons on May 20, 2013 about how he/she was disappointed by the amount of food waste and that “with better planning much can be done to avoid this situation in the future?”

What has been done to avoid this situation today?

If you’ve been to the Dining Commons this semester, you know there is a plethora of food and by the end of the day you might wonder where all that food goes.

I expressed my concerns about the amount of cookies I found in the faculty lounge to a worker in the Dining Commons (who chooses to stay anonymous). I was told that the food leftover by the end of the day goes straight to compost bins – no food is allowed to be taken out of the Dining Commons.  I have heard this from student workers as well.

While we may not all be fans of Sodexho – especially because of its compromise to Hampshire’s ethics due to its involvement in the privatized prison industry – at least the leftover foods were donated to homeless shelters.

After all, many people in Western, MA live in food insecurity.

It is unacceptable to throw out such large amounts of food, especially at a school dedicated to activism, and especially when those wasting claim to be committed to social responsibility.

Hampshire’s Healthy Food Transition hopes to change the enterprise of managing food on campus, using food as a means to teach students, communicate values, experiment with new models of food systems that solve problems and serve our community.

The only thing that I feel is being taught, communicated, and experimented with is a new model of food systems that ends in ignorance.  What are we teaching students and what values are we communicating by being extremely wasteful? Why are we not trying to serve a larger community by donating leftovers to people who need them?

That being said, my question to our new food service provider is: What exactly is socially responsible about food waste?

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