Editor, Daily Nexus,

“Finish your meal… don’t you know there are starving kids in Africa?” Familiar rhetoric to children growing up, the issue of food waste mentioned in Nick Pasto’s column (Daily Nexus, “Don’t Play Games With Students’ Meals,” May 16, 2003) and Lisa Cooper’s letter (Daily Nexus, “Letter Blows the Meal Plan Problem Out of Proportion,” May 19, 2003) needs serious discussion. College freshmen living in the dorms enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet offered by UCSB’s local five-star restaurant, Ortega. With the buffet, however, come the dumpsters full of wasted food, thrown away, perhaps, in retaliation to its mediocre taste.

Not only is the quality sub-par, the cost is higher than Bob Marley on 4/20. The meal plan payments, if publicly exposed, would shock and outrage. An average Ortega meal costs about $8; the cost of a Freebirds burrito is less than $6, an In-N-Out burger less than $2. The flavor of these two relative to Ortega is no mystery meat. So why does such bland food rob us blind? If you stare hard enough into that half-finished bowl of soup as it is slowly led to its terrible fate in the food processor, the answer will appear. Indeed, it is the answer. In an ideal world, students would eat what they take, reducing the food bought by Ortega in half; this translates into $4 per meal, or a savings of over $2,200. I could buy alcohol for my whole dorm on that budget.

Although wasting food creates a thin wallet, it creates a fat freshman.

On the flip side, food waste threatens California’s exotic, Mediterranean environment; the sagebrush, colorful wildflowers and coastal dunes exist in only four other areas in the world. This ecosystem is ecologically rich, but has shrunk by 75 percent due to agriculture and landfill expansion. Ortega alone trashes 700 tons of food each school year.

So, if you prefer palm trees swaying in the salty breeze, getting scammed worse than Arthur Anderson investors and splitting pant seams over cornfields and noxious fumes too, adopt this motto: Take only what you can definitely finish. If your little tummy still wants more, get seconds (or thirds). Take all you can eat, but eat all you take. Do it for yourself or the starving children. Either way, you win.