As the special events coordinator intern for Themester this year I was honored to help plan one of our largest events of the semester, being a panel discussion with New York Times food writer Mark Bittman. I gained invaluable knowledge on the logistics of planning large-scale events, I got to meet the “Bitt” man himself, and I ate some really great food along the way. The whole experience was wonderful—for the most part. There’s something that Bittman said that has unsettled me. When our panel asked him what college students could do to have a better and more sustainable food outlook he said, among other things, “to demand more out of our campus foods.”
Having worked at a fairly sustainable on-campus dining hall for most of my undergrad, I wondered how much more RPS could do. However, after a discussion with some IU faculty members I realized something. There seems to be a common misconception that our pre-packaged and pre-made foods are cheaper than our fresh food. I have done the ordering for a dining hall, folks—this is simply not the case. The only advantage that pre-packaged and pre-made foods have over fresh foods is that they have a longer shelf life. It seems ludicrous to me that, with thousands of people needing to be fed everyday, that we should be so concerned about shelf life. I now see that Bittman was right: we are not using fresh foods to our advantage on campus.