July 23, 2019 | 67° F

Students should be more appreciative and not take dining halls for granted

Letter to the editor

As I was eating lunch in the dining hall today, I watched a girl walk to her table scowling. “There’s nothing to eat here,” she complained to her friend. “There’s literally no food.”

I looked at her plate, which held far from nothing. I found it hard to believe that she could walk into an all-you-can-eat buffet, replete with countless varieties of cuisine and conclude that there was “no food” simply because the options were not to her liking.

Her comments highlight a lack of appreciation that I have observed amongst many students at Rutgers dining halls, an attitude that exhibits itself in myriad ways — both the wastage and berating of its food exemplify the sentiment. One needs only look to the kitchen’s conveyor belts, where plates tower with heaps of uneaten food, or listen to a conversation about how “Brower makes everyone want to throw up” to see just how unappreciative we have become.

When did it become acceptable to behave in this way? We may not realize how incredibly fortunate we are to have virtually unlimited food with the swipe of a card. It is true that we pay what may be perceived as an exorbitant amount of money to have a meal plan. But this does not justify the disregard with which many of us treat what we put on our plates.

Perhaps my sensitivity to this issue can be attributed to my family history. During the Holocaust, many of my relatives were kept in concentration camps and forced to live on scraps for years. Many were continually denied food, eventually dying from starvation. Even today, hundreds of millions around the world do not have access to the nourishment they need and are perpetually hungry. To speak and act in the thoughtless way that we often do is to belittle these facts.

Growing up, I was taught never to say, “I’m starving,” no matter how loudly my stomach was grumbling, because starvation is something that I am fortunate enough never to have experienced. Having been raised in a Jewish community, I am familiar with the blessings recited before meals that express gratitude for what we are about to eat. I believe these lessons instill a valuable sense of respect for food and help to prevent our taking it for granted.

It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture here, as we are busy college students with a lot on our (metaphorical) plates – no one is perfect and I, too, lose perspective at times. I am not suggesting that we consider dining hall food to be of the highest quality, nor that we falsely praise it if we do not deem it appropriate. What I am proposing is that when we swipe our cards for a meal, we take a step back and try to appreciate how lucky we are. To live in an environment where food is abundant and readily available is truly a privilege not to be undervalued.

Emily Gutowski is a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

By Emily Gutowski

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