Jason Wu/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Students put vegetables into their takeout containers at a Cornell Dining facility.

January 31, 2023

Cornell Dining Starts the Spring Semester Reaffirming Commitment to Sustainability, New Changes to Allergen Program

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Cornell Dining’s Spring 2023 guide included an announcement that dining halls will be continuing their sustainable efforts of no longer offering single-use takeout containers. 

With the continuation of the policy that began in Spring 2022, students must continue to request reusable containers at the entrance, free of charge for students enrolled in a meal plan. While some find the policy to be a step toward campus sustainability goals, others have concerns regarding the effectiveness of the policy.

The measure comes as part of a series of commitments as Cornell Dining works to become more sustainable through Sustainable Consumer Initiatives

The program includes a reusable mug initiative, allowing students to buy and use reusable mugs at cafes on campus in exchange for 10 percent off all self-serve hot or iced coffee, tea and fountain beverages. There is also a reusable utensil initiative that encourages students to bring their own clean reusable utensils to any of the cafés or dining rooms on campus — except Risley and 104West! due to concerns of allergen cross-contamination — to reduce the use of disposable flatware. 

Andrea Rodriguez ’26 is one student who felt that this initiative has marked a positive step for Cornell Dining towards sustainability and waste reduction on campus. 

“I think it reinforces the use of reusable containers, and makes it more equitable for the people that pay for the reusable containers instead,” Rodriguez said.

However, some dining halls, such as Morrison Dining, are still providing single-use plates, prompting students such as Atlas Bailly ’26 to criticize the policy.

“It introduces a barrier to eating on the go because you also have to carry around the takeout plate the entire day,” Bailly said. “It seems like a way to inconvenience students with no real efforts towards sustainability.”

Josh Ryan ’26 called the policy understandable, but counterintuitive. 

“I understand where this policy is coming from, however, it seems very counterintuitive to have people without a meal plan pay for the takeout containers,” Ryan said. “It makes it harder for people to get takeout on their way to class.” 

The Cornell Dining allergen program also underwent changes this semester, now implementing distinctions between labels for coconut and tree nuts. The Spring 2023 guide explains that since many people with nut allergies can tolerate coconut, it was important to make that distinction clear. In efforts to strengthen their allergen program, Cornell Dining’s culinary team and management are trained yearly with the AllerTrain food allergy training to improve conditions and provide proper labeling and avoid cross-contamination for the safety of students. 

Cornell Dining also published its Kosher and Halal options in its guide. 104 West!, the multicultural dining room on West Campus, accommodates Kosher and Halal diets. On North Campus, Morrison Dining has allocated stations dedicated to both Kosher and Halal diets. Additionally, all foods in Cornell Dining’s residential dining rooms are labeled for alcohol and pork.

Cornell Dining did not respond to requests for comment on its reasoning for the recent changes and continued steps toward sustainability goals.