UND students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are considered close contacts are sent to Grand Forks hotels, graciously paid for by the school. These students are in isolation and once in their hotel rooms, they cannot leave. UND dining services are offering all quarantined students meals delivered to their doors, regardless of whether they already have a purchased meal plan.
One meal drop is completed a day, containing dinner for that evening, and breakfast and lunch for the following day. Several assorted snacks and breakfast juices are also included with the main items. However, students are suggesting more customizable meals in terms of size and food choices. Several students have requested that there be 2 choices for dinner, giving the student their choice of preference. It would also be helpful to have the option to cancel their meal for a day if they were planning on utilizing other delivery services that day such as Doordash or UberEATS.
Having these extra options for meals and cancellations would reduce the large amount of waste produced by dining services. In February 2018, a blind study was conducted on both of the University’s dining centers: Wilkerson dining and Squires dining services. Over several days, Wilkerson totaled 527lbs, and Squires, outputting 946lbs of food and liquid waste. The largest differentiating factor between the two was Squires offering trays with their meals, while Wilkerson did not.
Since the coronavirus, waste amounts are rising again through quarantine food delivery. Without the option to choose any part of their meal, students are throwing away dinner entrees, and components of their meal that are delivered routinely. Every day with breakfast, juice is delivered in single sealed cups. If a student chooses to not consume this part of their meal throughout their quarantine, that is 14 juices wasted if they stay quarantined for the appropriate amount of time.
Now, accommodating all these quarantined students for free while cases are rising, is obviously going to take a financial toll on dining services as many off-campus students being offered hotel housing do not have meal plans. Meal options may be unachievable for the time being, however, drop off services needs to reduce the waste they are producing through their forms of packaging. The three meals brought to the students daily are individually bagged in a plastic grocery bag. That results in 42 plastic bags per quarantined student. Currently, on November 13, there are 50 UND faculty, staff and students in hotel isolation, and 400 currently quarantined individuals. UND services offer their quarantine meal services to all students and faculty in need, not only those in the hotels. This incredible number of plastic bags wasted from August-November 2020 in quarantine can be reduced to one-third its amount if UND did not triple bag their meals. One plastic bag a day is easily enough to contain the student’s next three meals.
Quarantining is going to be continuing for the rest of 2020, and if UND brings its students back for the spring semester, dining services will most likely be continuing to accommodate students. UND needs to be taking steps now towards waste reduction.
Brooke Kruger is a Dakota Student Opinion Writer. She can be reached at [email protected]