Camille Tolleshaug is a nutrition junior. Letters to the editor do not reflect the editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Dear Editor,

A recent Mustang News article, “Study finds most Campus Dining food unhealthy” (Connor McCarthy, Nov. 8), revealed a widespread lack of healthy meal options across various Campus Dining locations. Reaction to this study has justifiably focused on new and ongoing efforts to make healthy eating more practical at Cal Poly. However, a related, fundamental issue that needs to be addressed is the sustainability and environmental impact of our Campus Dining food system.

The United Nations estimates that a whopping 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to animal agriculture.

That figure is sure to rise over the coming years if things continue to go unchanged. With the human population growing by 75 million people each year, proper resource management is becoming a matter of paramount importance; we simply cannot continue to feed 7 billion individuals with a system that is so detrimental to the environment.

What does a sustainability problem like this have to do with healthy eating at Campus Dining locations? A lot more than you might think.

Addressing human health and the sustainability of our food system at the same time is both viable and logical. Plant-based foods are free of the many carcinogens associated with animal products, and produce a much smaller carbon footprint as well. Food technology companies everywhere are introducing plant-based, eco-friendly alternatives to culinary staples with resounding success.

San Francisco-based Hampton Creek Foods, creators of the egg-free sensation Just Mayo, produce the delicious and sustainable dessert Just Cookies. If every student at Cal Poly were to eat two Just Cookies in place of two conventional cookies per year, they would collectively save a million quarts of water and 19,000 square feet of land. They would also be consuming half a million less milligrams of cholesterol. Numbers like these are too substantial to ignore, especially in a region such as California where there is a major drought problem and resources are limited. Luckily, plant-based foods can be a big part of the solution.

Many California schools, including UC Berkeley, have partnered with companies like Hampton Creek to offer Just Mayo and Just Cookies to students. Cal Poly should do the same. In addressing the issues with Campus Dining, the university has an opportunity to embrace a much more sustainable food system, all while providing healthier alternatives to its students. Changes like these will eventually be inevitable, so let’s help lead the movement instead of waiting around to follow it.

Let’s have our cookie and eat it too. Rather, let’s have our planet and our health.

Letters to the editor may be submitted to editor@mustangnews.net with the subject line “Letter to the editor” to be considered for publication. Submissions should not exceed 700 words, and should include a headline, and your year, major or position. 

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