We need to talk about food at Xavier

Joseph Cotton is a sophomore Philosophy, Politics and the Public major. He is a staff writer for the Newswire from Dearborn, Mich.

The only issues that student leadership at Xavier should be concerned about are the issues of food waste and food insecurity. Our administration could be doing so much more to address these interconnected issues. If we, the students of Xavier, make a concerted effort, we can make a real difference and set up more people in our community for success.

Here are the facts. Various surveys reviewed by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) have reported numbers as high as 50% of college students stating that they have experienced some form of food insecurity. The Northern Kentucky Tribunal reported that around 31% of people in Cincinnati are facing the problem of food insecurity. Furthermore, Cincinnati ranks third in the nation in childhood poverty. We don’t even need to look out into the communities surrounding Xavier to find food insecurity.

Making sure that every Xavier student has consistent access to nutritious food will create a more diverse and vibrant student community. This is especially true on campus, considering that food insecurity disproportionally affects non-traditional and first-generation students. Malnourished young adults experience increased hospitalization, poorer health outcomes and decreased psycho-physiological functioning. Access to nutrition gives these students an equal chance to succeed and contribute to the fabric of Xavier.

Despite the fact that the numbers regarding food insecurity in the Cincinnati area and college campuses at large look bleak, there are simple steps the Xavier community can take to make a real impact on the issue. The Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit that researches issues related to sustainability primarily in America as well as in the rest of the world, estimates that there is anywhere from 32 to 97 tons of wasted food that could potentially be rescued from college campuses within Cincinnati. There is definitely enough food to go around; it is simply a matter of logistics.

Given everything that I have outlined, here are my demands.

ConneX needs to adopt an initiative that packages leftover food from dining halls into prepackaged meals. These meals would be placed in public freezers throughout campus for students to pick up or to be donated to relevant charities in surrounding communities. This plan would promote community engagement and provide an opportunity for students to get outside of the ivory tower of academia, all while making Xavier a national leader in food waste initiatives. 

The administration or ConneX needs to either name a food sustainability director or give the existing sustainability committee more power to work with Cincinnati to direct food that cannot be repackaged to composting and anaerobic digestion efforts. The administration also needs to implement a survey, similar to the Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence Climate Survey, that gives us the data we need to understand the issue on campus.

Finally, I would like to make a call to action to the new Student Government executives to re-evaluate their priorities by placing issues related to food waste and insecurity on their agenda. I believe that this is the best use of the SGA’s time and that food insecurity is the most pressing issue for Xavier and colleges across the country.