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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Campus Dining Serves Expired Food to Students

    For a campus boasting well over 20,000 students and countless more faculty and staff, food is unsurprisingly of the utmost importance. For roughly eight months out of the year, the university has to worry about how to provide hundreds of thousands of meals. But beyond the question of where all the food comes from lies the bigger mystery’hellip;where does all of our leftover food go?

    Not all food is thrown away. Select products remain on the shelves, albeit at times without the expressed knowledge of campus dining.

    ‘All of our Outtakes are dated for freshness so once it passes the date they are no longer on the shelves,’ said Lisa Ospitale, the director of marketing for campus dining services.

    On the contrary, a quick survey of the Union Deli found several products on the shelf past their expiration dates.

    The problem becomes more acute on the weekends. On consecutive weekends, an observation was made that sushi that had expired on Fridays was still for sale on the following Sundays.

    Sushi especially is known to have a very short shelf life because of the raw meat present in many variations.

    The CDC has released several reports warning consumers of the health risks of eating sushi that has been on the shelf for more than one day, listing a plethora of potential illness that may be caused by the raw fish in many varieties of sushi.

    Those types of cases are rare, however, and there have only been a handful of serious cases in the United States.

    Sushi is not the only product which has an extended lifetime at SB. Products ranging from croissants to leftover pizza make several appearances throughout the week. The same problem was noticed at Kelly Dining Center with milk cartons that remained in the display cases past their expiration dates.

    The resale of these products is being done without the approval of campus dining.

    ‘We normally do not have redistribution of food because of our Production Manager overseeing the kitchen and making sure that there isn’t any food left over at the end of the day,’ said Ospitale. There was no mention of what happens to the food that does get left behind.

    The Production Manager that was approached for this article declined comment.

    Ospitale continued, saying that the university follows strict guidelines when it comes to the safety of the food on campus.

    ‘We follow very strict Food Safety guidelines and we check temperature hourly to ensure that our hot food is hot and cold food is cold,’ she said.

    But there has been some serious speculation over the ability of campus dining to effectively monitor the actions of student employees and the production managers that are charged with ensuring that the products are distributed in a timely fashion.

    Walk around the dining halls near closing time and one may get a sense of the sheer amount of food that remains untouched on a daily basis. According to Ospitale, the amount of remaining food should be low.

    ‘In the kitchen, we have very little to no waste due [to] several reasons,’ she said via email. Batch cooking, production managers, and a state-of-the-art computer system called CHAMMPS which works to keep inventories at a tight level, all work in unison to maintain a delicate balance between the demand of students and staff and the supply provided by the dining halls.

    But leftovers are inevitable, despite the best efforts of Campus Dining.

    In the 2005-2006 fiscal year, according to waste management services on campus, the university disposed of over 6,000 tons of trash, an estimated 10 percent of which was trash from all the campus dining halls.

    Ospitale warns that those numbers can be deceptive.

    ‘There really is no way to tell how much food is thrown away because the garbage is mixed,’ said Ospitale. She added that the university has made considerable strides towards increasing the recycling program on campus.

    The numbers confirm Ospitale’s claim. In the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the university recycled over 16,000 tons of materials, twice the amount of the previous four years combined. Those numbers reflect the launch of Stony Brook’s recycling program that year, as well as the addition of several recycling bins that now occupy many high-traffic locations throughout campus.

    Another alternative for leftovers is donation.

    ‘Each semester we work with Island Harvest and we do canned and dried food drives,’ said Ospitale.

    But since campus dining tries to minimize the amount of leftovers, there are no day-to-day arrangements with local food pantries.

    During select times throughout the year, however, there are various food drives that expand the amount given by the university.

    During campus-wide events, such as graduation, where boxed lunches are provided, the university will donate the remaining boxes to Island Harvest, which collects food from over 600 locations and redistributes it to soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters all across Long Island. They operate out of Mineola, Uniondale, and Holbrook.

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