UT Clean Plate Club teaches responsibility to young adults

Benroy Chan

The wellness of the environment is something people rarely think about in everyday life, especially as it relates to food consumption. Most people acknowledge the environmental issues associated with driving, littering and other sources, but food wastage is an equally big problem.

According to the USDA, approximately 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste, and a study conducted by UT associate professor Michael Webber found that if the U.S. stopped wasting food, the energy saved could power a country like Switzerland for more than a year. 

With school entering full swing, young adults need to learn to take care of themselves, but they should also learn to care for the environment. UT’s Clean Plate Club brings forth the issue of food wastage in an engaging way, and in doing so, teaches the core value of responsible consumption. Although one organization at one university won’t have a significant impact on these figures by itself, it sets an example for other entities to follow.

Hunter Mangrum, The Division of Housing and Food Service’s environmental specialist, said the Clean Plate Club was originally launched in spring 2013 as an awareness campaign to target customers of the J2 and Kinsolving dining halls.

However, the Clean Plate Club’s purpose isn’t just to “cure our facilities of plate waste,” Mangrum said, but also to “empower our customers through knowledge to make a difference by cleaning their plate.”

Although many students view their amount of food waste as minuscule, an article by the USDA Economic Research Service proves the contrary: Consumer and food service food waste is the single largest source of food loss in the marketing chain.

“We should all be aware of our food waste and take only what we need from the cafeterias,” chemical engineering freshman Audrey McNay said. “Clean Plate is a really great initiative that addresses the food waste issue at UT.”

In college, students will learn important life skills through daily stresses, and hopefully, through the works of the UT Clean Plate Club, students will be more aware of food waste and take steps to reduce it long after graduation. The Clean Plate Club ultimately teaches students about a problem bigger than themselves, but in doing so, shows how every individual plays a part in reducing it.

Benroy Chan is a journalism freshman from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @BenroyChan.