Most students know that East Quad Residence Hall serves sustainable food, but honestly, how many students know that all the dining halls do? Or how many students actually know the University’s definition of sustainable food? I didn’t know either of these things before taking the class “Sustainability and the Campus” this semester. I have noticed an unfortunate disconnect between the students and the food they eat. When it comes down to it, the University is doing a great job of incorporating sustainable foods into dining areas across campus, but it is doing a poor job of informing students about sustainable food choices and educating us about the importance of eating more sustainable food.
It’s important for students to know that the University defines sustainable food as food that is either grown or processed within 150 miles of Ann Arbor or within the state of Michigan. It’s also important for them to know that sustainable foods not only promote environmental sustainability, but also economic sustainability. The most important thing for them to know, though, is how to identify sustainable foods around campus. The labeling system currently being used is ineffective and the education component is lacking.
If more students were aware of the environmental and economic benefits of eating sustainable foods, I think they would push for more sustainable ingredients. And if more students were aware of the sustainable options that already exist, I think they would try to eat more of those dishes too. Whether or not this is true, the University needs to work on bridging the disconnect between students and the food they eat. I never would have guessed that 19 percent of the food on campus is sustainable, would you have? Now, that’s some food for thought.